Prem Chandavarkar on Wed, 11 Oct 2006 21:22:28 +0200 (CEST)

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

Why Isn't There Men's Studies?

As a male who (at times) reflects upon feminism - I find it interesting to
contextualise this question within the argument in Dorothy Dinnerstein's
book "The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise".
Dinnerstein's thesis is that the condition that both men and women are
subject to is that they are both born to and generally nurtured at first by
the female mother on whom they are completely dependent.  She writes "The
initial experience of dependence on a largely uncontrollable outside source
of good is focused on a woman, and so is the earliest experience of
vulnerability to disappointment and pain".   The fact that we are bonded to
this condition - the inescapability of pain - is associated with feminity,
and women are therefore made scapegoats to the human condition.  In
contrast, the male who can claim detachment (an option not available to
women) thereby claims a description of liberation - the achievement of a
higher plane.  This bias towards detachment has driven intellectualism and
philosophy, and has created a consequent tendency to construct conceptual
paradigms that are blind to fundamental aspects of ground realities.

While Dinnerstein has been criticised for rooting all problems into a single
simple cause - rather than debating on whether her analysis is right or not,
it seems more worthwhile to reflect on a potential implication.  The
feminist movement has two directions it can choose from.  It can embrace the
methodology of self-assertion and throught this seek the kind of liberation
that men have achieved.  But this tends to  invite a response from the male
ranks saying "We will give you power, but only if you agree to be like us".
To ask a feminist "Why isn't there a Men's Studies?" seems to be this kind
of response.  The alternative direction for feminism is not to depend solely
on using detachment as a model, but to also seek empowerment from a position
of attachment - through networks and lateral connections.  While one can see
women doing this on a daily basis, this does not tend to be the popularly
held perception of feminism, and most men push the definition towards the
former option.  What is rarely perceived is that a feminist perspective of
attachment can not only provide the impetus for the empowerment of women, it
can also provide an extremely valuable perspective for viewing the human
condition itself.

So the question is not whether feminism is balanced by men's studies.  It is
not a competitive balance that is the issue.  As Mary Wollstonecraft said
(so many years ago) "What we seek is not women's power over men.  What we
seek is women's power over themselves".  The question is not "Am I allowing
other histories?".  While this may be a valid question, one must first face
a question that is much more fundamental, proximate and personal - it is "Do
I have the power to write my own history?"  And on this question, the
options available to men and women are starkly different.

On 11/10/06, Kali Tal <> wrote:

>         [digested @ nettime -- mod (tb)]
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> From: Kali Tal <>
> 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.

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