Guest Columnist #77 - An Open Letter...

by d, with help from friends
    Some men say they want an end to the rape of the earth*, but what about an end to the rape of wimmin? Why is male violence/male supremacy continued to be called a "women's issue" that must be boxed up and away until after civilization collapses?
    Male violence, which upholds male supremacy, is at the foundation of this civilization. Splitting the Sky, who is an indigenous freedom fighter and was involved in the Attica uprising and the Gustafson Lake standoff, has said that "The war against wimmin is the oldest war." As men constantly need to prove their manhood, all "others" are subjugated. Patriarchy boxes all of us into male/female roles, and if one steps out of those roles or doesn't fit into those roles, then violence will be used to either force one back in or just break that person down. Feminists have long drawn the connections between male supremacy, war, genocide, and the assault on the planet.
    In Beyond God the Father, Mary Daly writes: "It should require no great imaginative leap to perceive a deep relationship between the mentality of rape and genocide. The socialization of male sexual violence in our culture forms the basis for corporate and military interests to train a vicious military force."
    For a long time now, these connections have been pointed out to men in these broader movements. So why are they cast aside? Why aren't they taken seriously? Arguments have been that the campaign, action, or protest itself is too important to be sidetracked by feminist concerns. Of course, it isn't usually worded that way when sexism is dismissed. Comments range from statements like the polite (which masks the underlying womyn hatred) and privileged, "We need to focus on the goal here" to the attacking and also privileged, "Fuck you, you Feminazis!" Some men have been willing to address a few concerns so that wimmin will still be a part of groups and campaigns, as long as it doesn't take too much time or divert too much energy. After all, who are all these men going to sleep with, AND who's going to do all the shitwork; the unacknowledged work that gets no gratitude and isn't sexy and heroic?!? And, of course, it has been said that there is no problem of sexism; that it just doesn't exist. Meanwhile the underlying causes for this behavior go unspoken.
    To better understand the dynamics of today's movements, we can look to movements of the past. During Vietnam, large groups of men said NO to going to war, a service that has always been part of being a "real" man. This refusal received support from wimmin and older men who encouraged this resistance.
    In his book Refusing to Be a Man, John Stoltenberg reflects, "It was very nearly a new moment in the history of men and war: There might have developed a general consciousness among males that militarism is immoral, not simply that particular war in that particular country. There might have emerged an awareness of the sexual politics of war, the relationship between manhood and violence and the global sex-class system. But that of course was not what happened. Instead, for young males, resistance to military service came to be viewed culturally as being consistent with conventional masculinity: If a young man refused to fight, his power and prerogative in the culture over women was completely intact - in the eyes of himself and in the eyes of enormous numbers of others ("Girls say yes to men who say no" and "Make love not war" were two popular slogans of the time). Thus male resistance to the war in Vietnam became a new and acceptable option for being a real man, instead of an occasion for examining the fundamental relationship between militarism and male supremacy."
    This is similar to what is happening in our movement right now. Many see the global corporate imperialist death culture known as civilization and know that we want to stop its consumption of everything, but we aren't examining the fundamental relationship between civilization and male supremacy, or even looking at our own shit for that matter. What is happening to the planet, and all our lives, would not be happening without male violence. They are linked and inseparable.
    Also similar to past movements, in our current movements violence is romanticized and solutions are simplified. Do we talk about rape that occurs in times of war, and at street riots?!? Most men don't even talk about rape that happens every day! Pointing out the male violence that occurs during a revolution or in street riots challenges long held beliefs around tactics. As society approaches more of a breaking point, male violence, along with white supremacist attacks will increase because people with privilege are going to freak out as their power slips and resort to tactics they know have worked in the past. We need to be addressing these issues in the work we do and incorporate an anti-oppression analysis.

    *This phrase is used here because it is often used by men in the eco-movement. I'm attempting to point out how some men will throw these words around. Not only are these men often not doing any work to end sexual violence, they are using language that is insensitive to the reality of survivors. To quote a female friend, "Many people, including myself, are uncomfortable with this usage of the word "rape"-that is, using rape as a metaphor to describe acts of violence and oppression that are different than acts of sexual violence. For people who are survivors of rape, attempted rape, and the other myriad forms of sexual violence, rape is not a metaphor. It is a bodily experience, a violation of the worst kind, that forever alters one's relation to oneself and with other people. So when the word "rape" is used as a metaphor, especially when it is used by a man (as the vast majority of people who perpetuate rape are men), it can have the effect of minimizing the experience of survivors as well as minimizing the severity of this rape culture that we live in and the immense amount of work that we all must do to unlearn and end it.
    Right now, thanks to years of feminists' struggles, we have an amazing opportunity to look at how the concepts of masculinity and manhood lead to the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants. We could begin to break the silence of how hard it is to live up to being a real man. We could open up, share our feelings, start supporting one another on a path of healing while we reject male privilege and hold each other accountable. But that isn't happening.
    Oh sure, at the 2002 Earth First! Winter Rendezvous, a male who is an abuser was kicked out after a consensus process. I’m glad it happened for the safety of people there and to show that such behavior will not be tolerated. But he was an easy person to kick out. He wasn't some long-term die-hard older activist with a big reputation. What about the other abusers who were at the rendezvous? The ones who are practically famous within this movement? What would confronting them have looked like?
    The way we act on a daily basis is what keeps this rape culture going. It is the objectifying looks and remarks, and the allowance of such behavior. It is ignorance of heterosexual male privilege and the denial of its existence while reaping its rewards. Rejecting male violence requires a leap into the unknown. In mainstream culture, the few men who do speak out against rape culture are time and time again called "gay". Their whole manhood is up for questioning. The fear of being called gay forces many men to not only keep silent, but to continuously prove their heterosexuality. This "proving" is directly linked to ideas of what a real man is supposed to be, and so it is really an attempt to stay in the "act like a man" box. We are not immune from this; it has been in us since the playground at school, and repeats itself over and over again.
    In our scene, this plays out in a different way. Instead of being called "gay", men who are working on being anti-sexist are called "brainwashed, mind-numbed sheep; P.C.; reformist" and speaking out against sexism is viewed as annoying, harsh, anti-male, unimportant, and not hardcore, to name a few. Profeminist men are also told that they are just trying to get in with wimmin to have sex with them. So in mainstream culture and radical culture, sexuality is focused on to dismiss these men. Not only can this put someone on the defensive, but it misses the point that maybe these men are being anti-sexist because they deeply care for justice and an end to male violence. If a man in the movement becomes too profeminist or challenges gender, they are not respected anymore as a real activist. Sometimes, this all takes place behind the back while positive lip-service is given face to face. Other times, these men might be physically confronted by other men who are pissed that they've left the "boy's club" and are being vocal about it.
    When people are called out on their oppressive behavior, a common distancing tactic is for them to turn it around and talk about their own victimization. It is important to keep in mind that unless someone is a rich, white, heterosexual, able-bodied christian male, they are probably oppressed in some ways and have privilege in other ways. So while, this person being called out might have valid points about their oppression, usually they are bringing it up to shift the focus away from their own oppressive behavior. Many times this is accompanied by name calling and aggressive body posturing. Or the person acts like a politician and pretends to listen and then just goes back to their friends and talks shit.
    So even within our radical movement there are many men who are unwilling to look at the reality of male violence. It can be really scary to step outside the male box and examine our homophobia, heterosexism, and sexism. Because when one steps out too far, there are plenty of people who will try to shove that person right back in to the point where people are killed for not being "man enough" or for being "not male". Asking ourselves how we contribute to male violence and how that plays out in our daily interactions is critically important if we are going to be an inclusive movement. And that goes along with looking at our relations to all forms of oppression. These are uncomfortable questions which are often avoided ("We just need to win this campaign") or denied ("I don't have a problem with that") But if we truly want to stop the destruction of the planet, we need to work to stop sexual violence, misogyny, and sexist attitudes. This means taking a position against male supremacy. And not just the big bad CEOs, but the men within our movement and our everyday lives. Doing that requires taking risks, but we take risks all the time because we believe in what we do. So let's encourage and support each other together in taking another risk by working to end male violence.
Some suggestions:
*Begin to look at yourself and deconstruct your patterns
*Listen to wimmin
*Look at how your organizing is affected by sexism, as well as other forms of oppression
*Work on forming coalitions with groups who are working to end male violence
*Contact your local domestic violence/sexual assault agency and see if you can participate in a training-they're usually free
*Start volunteering there
*Read feminist authors, especially wimmin of color
*Read Refusing to be a Man and The End of Manhood by John Stoltenberg
*Read Men's Work: To End Male Violence by Paul Kivel
*Start a men's group to talk about patriarchy, grow together, and hold each other accountable
*Check out newsletter is amazing
*Be a role model to other men and boys
Note: This male is proud to be a gender traitor as well as being a race traitor and when he gets dissed on for it, he knows he must be doing something right. He also knows that he's not perfect and is socialized to be an oppressor and that's why he's doing this work.