Masculinity & Feminism: Let’s Open a Dialogue

Susan Dench is a woman I read with no small amount of consternation. Her views of femininity seem antiquated and oppressive to women in general. What’s even more striking to me is that she seems to view men simultaneously as poor pitiful creatures who are deserving of sympathy while also arguing that we have benefited from such outrageously antiquated concepts as “free milk and a cow.”

Her latest views of the errors of feminism espouse the values of a “traditional world” of male and female relations and extend only as far as heterosexual men and women and how we relate romantically and sexually. What she seems to bemoan most is the loss of socially defined masculinity as it existed prior to 1960:    

“ It happened again. A guy told me he just didn’t know what women expected from him anymore. He was almost paralyzed by fear, wondering if he should do something that he thought would be gentlemanly but which he feared might actually offend the fairer sex.”

The man that she’s describing needs to develop a secure sense of self and stop whining. Why in the world would a man be concerned with what an entire gender “expects of him.”  Why would he expect a uniform set of expectations? Can we not anticipate and celebrate diversity and differing beliefs and values? Why in the world would we desire uniformity?

“Men have taken advantage of casual sex on demand and ended up with even more power…”

Ok. Susan, is it your position that women do not benefit from casual sex? We (men) have “taken advantage.” How do you reconcile this with your sympathy for men who gosh darn it just don’t know what women want? How do you view casual sex outside of heterosexuality?

“…feminism has gone far beyond legal equity to inflict social damage that, unless we come to our senses, may never be repaired.”

I see. Yet the only thing your article dictates is that we go back to something that was lost as if it were truly desirable in the first place and realistic in today’s world. It also begs the question, who is “we?” What responsibility do you see men as having? Your contradictory depictions of us as simultaneously confused, confounded and yet vilifying us as taking advantage of the fairer sex for sex is impossible for me to resolve.

Here’s my resolution: I’m a feminist because I recognize the self evident truth that men have greater social privilege within our culture. Specifically, I embrace Post Modern Feminism because it specifically espouses the value of “embracing the contradiction.” Want to be sexually promiscuous and kick ass in your given field? That’s fine with me. It neither diminishes nor grants greater power. It’s an exertion of free will.  

I consider myself as having a responsibility to impact other men – especially boys and young men in modeling for them how a man ought to be – not only in relation to women they may become romantically involved with, but to all people. I consider myself as having an equal responsibility to young girls and women – that my interactions model how a man ought to behave. My modeling is based in what I believe and value – and I advocate this approach to others.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.