Kali Tal on Wed, 11 Oct 2006 14:50:34 +0200 (CEST)

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kaligram: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x6]

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From: Kali Tal <kali@kalital.com>
Subject: kaligram: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x6]
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 04:09:18 -0700

Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for your response. I'll address some points you make in my  
answer, but first I want to point out an example of the gendered  
dynamic of online discourse.

A woman made a gender critique and sent a mostly male listserv into a  
pretty unusual flurry of activity, with feminists defending the  
reasonableness of the critique, and non-feminists contesting its  
legitimacy.  With all the fuss about whether it was okay to say a  
particular writer was sexist, we never really got around to  
discussing the substance of the critique. The topic under question  
was chiefly whether the critic had the right to criticize.

THEN.... A guy asks a question about a supposed "hole" in feminist  
theory.  The hole, he claims, is that women don't seem to ask men  
what they think or feel.  What happens? Four women respond helpfully  
(three of them with lists of specific readings); one woman concurs  
and uses your question as a point of substantial reflection... and  
one man and one woman tell you politely, "Look it up, buddy; you've  
got eyes and feet." Nobody tears you a new asshole, says you look  
"ridiculous" for asking the question, or challenges your right to speak.

And in this context, you continue to say a problem with feminism is  
that it doesn't understand how men feel and think? The difference in  
response was invisible to you. And this is exactly what I mean...  
Case. In. Point.

Now... the problems with the particular point you're trying to make...

You claim in two posts that you had meaningful exposure to feminist  
theory, but in neither post do you name a single feminist thinker  
except Virginia Woolf.  Your suggestion that feminism would benefit  
from familiarity with sociological and anthropological method only  
underlines your ignorance of more than two generations of feminist  
work in those fields (look it up) and is truly, deeply patronizing.   
In your second post you are perfectly comfortable making claims about  
"feminism" and its lacunae as if you are an authority -- an authority  
backed up simply by the fact you disagree with an (unnamed,  
unmeasured) sample of women who "don't understand men" and that  
you've seen (not documented, mind you, but "seen") *women's*  
ignorance of men lead to "tragic misunderstandings."

Am I (as a feminist) responsible both for articulating what I feel,  
and also for *helping* the men around me to articulate what they feel  
because the poor things just aren't in touch with their feelings?  
They can't do it themselves?  If, as you say, you accept the fact  
women are oppressed (including being silenced), how is it you can  
reasonably argue that I not only have to overcome the restrictions  
against my speech (and the tendency of men not to listen even when I  
*am* speaking), but that I also have have the responsibility to help  
my oppressors overcome their own communication difficulties? Where,  
in this argument, is the responsibility of *men* outlined? It isn't.  
Not *once* do you suggest, anywhere, that men have an obligation to  
learn to communicate clearly, or to listen to women. You're only  
concerned that women don't listen to you. Or that they listen, but  
because you don't state your thoughts and feelings clearly, they  
don't *understand*.

"Men's Studies" (in its various forms ranging from the dopey drum- 
pounding exoticism of the Bly/Keen "Men's Movement" to serious  
inquiry like Seidel's and Stoltenberg's) has been around for a couple  
of decades... since -- completely non-coincidentally -- the beginning  
of the institutionalization of feminism in academia.

If you're going to make your intervention in this conversation  
anything other than "Let's talk about *me* for a minute," then you  
need to problematize your own position as a questioner and be aware  
of the larger dynamics of the discourse.

Think about it.


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From: Kali Tal <kali@kalital.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [6x]
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 05:15:21 -0700

And... for a wonderfully cogent and well-substantiated argument by a  
male feminist, here is a link to Mark Anthony Neal's essay, "My Black  
Male Feminist Heroes": http://www.popmatters.com/features/030226- 

The difference in the level of discourse is quite remarkable.


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