Sinning, salvation, and macho cred.

Yesterday, Miriam at feministing flagged  a post about becoming a black male feminist. The author, Byron Hurt:

As I grew older and got into my own relationships with girls and women, I sometimes behaved as I saw my father behave. I, too, became defensive and verbally abusive whenever the girl or woman I was dating criticized or challenged me. I would belittle my girlfriends by scrutinizing their weight or their choices in clothes. In one particular college relationship, I often used my physical size to intimidate my petite girlfriend, standing over her and yelling to get my point across during arguments.
I had internalized what I had seen in my home and was slowly becoming what I had disdained as a young boy. Although my mother attempted to teach me better, I, like a lot of boys and men, felt entitled to mistreat the female gender when it benefited me to do so.

Miriam’s reaction?  “Love it.”  My reaction was more ambivalent.   The problem is, the narrative about male social and sexual development that many feminists have embraced is extraordinarily troubling.

(And, by the way, when Mr. Hurt says that he “felt entitled to mistreat the female gender when it benefited me to do so,” it would have been more honest for him to say, “I felt entitled to mistreat people when it benefited me to do so.”  Aggressive men are aggressive toward women and other men.  This is an important part of the equation that feminism often overlooks.)

The narrative that Mr. Hart (and many other feminist men) offers goes something like this:

“I used to be an aggressive, entitled, misogynistic man.  I had several sexual relationships, but always treated the women in my life poorly, and learned to behave this way from other men.  This went on for many years until I finally accepted that as a man I am a sinner, and can atone for my sins through feminism.”

This narrative has two important subtexts that are worth pondering:  (1)  “There is a ‘Beast Within Me,’ and I am virile, powerful, and capable of aggression”  (2)  “To become a good man, I have tamed the ‘Beast Within’ and have learned to channel this masculine energy in positive, life affirming ways.”

It should go without saying that men such as Byron Hurt should be congratulated if they have learned to treat women with respect and have disavowed their formerly aggressive behavior.  I say it should go without saying, because it’s become obvious to me that certain people are going to read this and say, “Miguel is trying to hurt Mr. Hurt!”  And while I’m not trying to hurt Mr. Hurt, or Hugo Schwyzer, or any other man who has come forward to speak honestly of his own youthful aggressive or entitled behavior – and in fact I applaud such men for changing their attitudes and speaking out against misogyny – I do find the narratives they offer troubling when they are presented as the experience of “most men.”  It’s troubling because these narratives disappear a lot of men for whom being “too aggressive” was hardly the hallmark of their youthful selves.  It’s troubling because feminists – some feminists – see vulnerability in themselves and in homosexual men and yet, in the case of heterosexual men, they seem unable – or unwilling – to think of the “good man” as anything other than the man who has “tamed the beast within.”

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11 Responses to Sinning, salvation, and macho cred.

  1. Cindy says:

    (And, by the way, when Mr. Hurt says that he “felt entitled to mistreat the female gender when it benefited me to do so,” it would have been more honest for him to say, “I felt entitled to mistreat people when it benefited me to do so.” Aggressive men are aggressive toward women and other men. This is an important part of the equation that feminism often overlooks.)

    Or maybe he was actually aggressive towards women only or mostly. How can you say it would have been more honest for him to say your statement when you don’t even know his experience mistreating women? A lot of aggressive men back down from men because it’s someone equal to their size but continue to pick on women because they’re seen as weaker.

  2. Darque says:

    I take it you weren’t one of the men who’s been abused by the type of ultra macho persona mentioned in that anecdote then.

    Not all dudes are equal size.

  3. Cindy says:

    No, not all men are equal size, but that still doesn’t take away the idea that women are still perceived as passive and/or weak. So, an aggressive man would still use that weakness to his advantage, probably more so than with another man.

  4. Darque says:

    What will probably happen in reality is that he’ll end up bullying his male friends, and abusing/coercing his girlfriends.

  5. Xakudo says:

    Of course, you make a valid point. In this particular case Miguel does not know, and cannot assert what would have been more honest or not, and he should not have attempted to assert that.

    But in terms of broader societal narrative, he has a point. And I think that is his larger point in the piece: there is a tendency to pick and choose which men’s stories are seen as representative of how men grow up and experience the world, and how men treat people (including women, and including men).

    In general I suspect Miguel is right that the men who mistreat women to the degree outlined in that piece typically do mistreat men as well. Not necessarily their friends (whom they see as equals), but other men.

  6. Danny says:

    Good point. Sometimes I get the feeling that people like this who go on about how men mistreat women and think they don’t do the same to men are either not seeing the whole picture or are ignoring the parts that don’t align with the conclusions they have already drawn.

    I think this may be why among feminists there are so many stories of men “taming the beast” which the beast seems to have only come out with women.

    Not saying their stories aren’t true just that they are not the only stories.

  7. Danny says:

    Considering how bullying can go I would not be surprised if some of those men actually started off being a bully to men and then it spilled over into bullying women after seeing that bullying other men worked.

  8. Danny says:

    It’s troubling because feminists – some feminists – see vulnerability in themselves and in homosexual men and yet, in the case of heterosexual men, they seem unable – or unwilling – to think of the “good man” as anything other than the man who has “tamed the beast within.”
    Troubling indeed. (I wonder if what you’re pointing out here is related to the notion that “men are inherently bad” that feminist try, with mixed success, to distance themselves from.) I also notice that for some of them the only time they will even acknowledge anything even remotely resembling vulnerability in heterosexual men is when they can tie it back to women.

  9. Hiya,

    Well the sampled quote only talks about his relationships with women. The (oversimplified) definition of Hegemonic Masculinity is that men dominate other men and subordinate women. So,if you go with that, it isn’t a far jump in logic to say he bullies/bullied men. It isn’t written in the piece so I suppose it is hearsay to speculate. I think what Miguel is addressing is what got him called a megadouche in that feminism doesn’t care about the experiences of bullied/marginalized men. That is not to say that no women who label themselves as feminists never care about men doled out inequity or think that men bullying men is okay. (The Ecofem peice seemed much more sympathetic.) Hugo also acknowledges this when he states that Miguel isn’t an enemy. Still with comments like ‘what about the menz” and dismissing a male as “mansplaining”……. well…..

    Rock On!

    Stoner B

  10. Oh, and I’ve been mulling things over in my mind for the past few hours….

    Too take things further, it is Hegemony rather than Hegemonic Masculinity that is the problem. Sure, gender is an important topic in Interpersonal Relations but on a broader scale I would say that some men and a few women dominate most other men and subordinate all other women. There have been women who weilded a whole lot of power (ie. Margaret Thatcher.) Granted, they might be closer to the exception than the rule. I think this gets more into Noam Chompsky/Socialist territory where I’m not well versed.

    I did once ask what Feminists thought of Sara Palin and Anne Coultier on a Feministe thread. The comment disappeared, maybe the moderator thought it was derailing from the original topic. It was unfortunate but I felt it was a legitimate question. This was also on the thread where Clarisse Thorn asked Quiet Riot Girl to play nice and not say anything bad about feminism. Well, if Kant was posting a blog, I think he would be able to handle formidable questions. I get the feeling at times they are asking to play by their rules as a way of being dealt with with “kid gloves.” It’s kind of like when you see a female fronted rock band, you don’t expect the highest calibre of musicianship but expect the singer to be hot and move well. (I’m sure Joan Jett among others would take issue with this and mention they had to work twice as hard as a comparable male rocker to get half as much respect.)

  11. john smith says:

    …. “tamed the beast within.”

    I am I the only one who sees an undercurrent of the female myth of “THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” going on here.

    The great mistake many feminist make in interpreting this female myth is they fail to realise that the “beast” is actually a very real part of the female psyche. But by failing to acknowledge and acceptance of the existence of their “inner Beast”, many feminist’s( and women in general), project his existence externally. Only here do they believe they can “tamed the beast within.” Of course it never does.

    Thanks

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