Thursday, November 29, 2012

Partnership: How to Achieve Gender Equality with Feminism

As my book The Will to Change by bell hooks comes to a close the last couple chapters had me more than engaged, beginning with the concept and seventh chapter "Feminist Masculinity." Bell hooks answers the question: how can feminism relate to men. As hooks has been advocating throughout the book, patriarchy makes life and loving difficult for men: "Patriarchal masculinity teaches males to be pathologically narcissistic, infantile, and psychologically dependent for self determination on the privileges (however relative) that they receive from having been born male." In this chapter bell hooks takes it a step further by claiming feminism as an alternative to our patriarchal systems.

"The core of feminist masculinity is a commitment to gender equality and mutuality as crucial to inter-being and partnership in the creating and sustaining of life. Such a commitment always privileges nonviolent action over violence, peace over war, life over death."

Hooks argument contends that patriarchal masculinity is based in domination. She does not want to end masculinity, or replace it with femininity but instead calls for a transformation from masculinity centered on domination to masculinity centered on partnership. This emphasis on partnership echoes the values of equality and balance. As in the above quote hooks makes the argument that if we transform masculinity in our society, a focus on partnership, equality, and balance could end violence against women.

More on the concept of partnership: "In a partnership model male identity, like its female counterpart would be centered around the notion of an essential goodness that is inherently relationally oriented."

What got me so excited about this argument is that hooks talks about a feminism that does not exclude men. Feminism in my opinion is about equality. For hooks feminism does not exclude/dominate/control/change men; feminism can liberate men.
Gender relations do not have to be a power struggle. It can be a partnership.

MISS Defines Feminism

MISS has been building a dialogue this fall bringing up many issues that are affecting our friends, family, community, and society. Throughout our blog you may be seeing feminism or feminist discourse pop up. I thought it would be good to get some of MISS’ thoughts on feminism out and on the internet.
In sociology Feminism is defined as a way of viewing society in which gender pervades all aspects. I agree with this because I think in our society a majority of things are seen in the two categories of female and male. Feminism as a movement has been through many different phases. I will provide a brief history of feminism to my knowledge so you can see the evolution of thought that has happened and how the current paradigm of feminism came to be.

Feminism is thought to have originated in the early 1900’s with Women’s Suffrage. This was the first instance of women joining together to demand rights that men had had for a long time. With women’s suffrage, women gained, most notably, the right to vote. 

Second wave Feminism happened later in the century when women wanted equal treatment in the workplace. More and more women were seeking careers and alternative lifestyles to the stay at home roles that had been the norm in the past but were not treated the same. In this movement women joined together on the sole basis of womanhood and did not acknowledge differences between women of different cultures. This wave was focused on equal treatment for women, was successful in gaining rights for women in the workplace, but excluded women of color.

Third wave feminism brought intersectionality to the movement, and is the most current ideology of the movement. Third wave feminism recognizes that gender pervades all aspects of social life but that women are not the only people oppressed, and that not all women are oppressed in the same way. It recognizes differences of culture and differences in the meaning of gender. Third wave feminism is a movement for equality for all people, and breaking down the ideas that society tries to confine us to (such as Tony Porter’s “man box”).

MISS is a feminist movement in the way that we seek equality for all people. We are not focused on a feminist agenda, but we do use some third wave feminist dialogue to discuss issues affecting our people. Bell hooks, the author of “The Will to Change” being reviewed in Men for Miss is a famous third wave feminist, writing in a feminist perspective on the issues of race, gender, and education. I am currently studying indigenous feminism for a research paper and hope to post more about that in the future.  I have been looking at the works of Andrea Smith, one of the more published indigenous feminists. Here is a quote from a piece by her talking about the real history of true feminism:

The feminist movement is generally periodized into the so-called first, second and third waves of feminism. In the United States, the first wave is characterized by the suffragette movement; the second wave is characterized by the formation of the National Organization for Women, abortion rights politics, and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendments. Suddenly, during the third wave of feminism, women of colour make an appearance to transform feminism into a multicultural movement.
This periodization situates white middle-class women as the central historical agents to which women of colour attach themselves. However, if we were to recognize the agency of indigenous women in an account of feminist history, we might begin with 1492 when Native women collectively resisted colonization. This would allow us to see that there are multiple feminist histories emerging from multiple communities of colour which intersect at points and diverge in others. This would not negate the contributions made by white feminists, but would de-center them from our historicizing and analysis.

If you are interested in feminism and how it relates to Native communities I’d suggest checking out the whole article that can be found here:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hooks on the Worth of Men: The Ability to Love and be Loved

This weeks chapter "Work: What's Love Got to do With it?" really hit home, I feel in regards to challenges in rural Alaska. Bell hooks in her book The Will to Change addresses the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism.
Hooks claims that the patriarchy in our country has defined male success, male worthiness, as earning money. She defines the patriarchal message: "If a man stops working, he loses his reason for living." Citing Victor Seidler in Rediscovering Masculinity: "This is the only identity that can still prove our masculinity by showing we do not need anything from others."
Throughout reading this chapter I am brought back to the NANA Region. Our region is facing high rates of suicide, and young men are the most frequent victims. This statistic represents our challege, from an article in ADN published this summer: "Alaska Native males between the ages of 20 and 29 had the highest suicide rate, at 155.3 per 100,000 people."
The numbers are astounding, and in conversations with community leaders like Reggie Joule and Martha Whiting I have heard the sentiment that men no longer know purpose, or fulfillment in a transition from providing through subsistence hunting to earning pay checks. Reggie, as we chatted this summer said, our men need to find their purpose.
Bell hooks claims that men need to focus on their ability to love and be loved: "In actuality individual men are engaged  in the work of emotional recovery every day, but the work is not easy because they have no support systems within the patriarchal culture." At the end of the chapter she calls on the Elders in our country provide guidance: "The elders who can speak to younger generations of men, debunking the patriarchal myth of work; those voices need to be heard. They are the voices that tell younger men, 'Don't wait until your life is near it's end to find your feeling, to folow your heart. Don't wait until it's too late."

I am compelled by her argument. As men find their way in modern rural Alaska, what if they are allowed to love? What if they are celebrated for their ability to love? Can we rethink what it is to be a man, from ability to provide to ability to love and be loved?

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are you for MISS?

Female advocates for true independence may refuse to take in their husband’s last name in order to continue branding their maiden name. They have plenty of respectable reasons for keeping their last name but I am personally influenced by the women who can take in a new last name and make it personal to herself. 

This summer, I had stepped into former NWAB Mayor Siikauraq’s office to speak to her about the MISS movement and ask for her advice. She told me the story about taking in her husband’s last name. Siikauraq is a part of the big, local Wilson family and had grown up making something of her name through sports and activities. After college, she got married to Alex and had one daughter, Denali. Together, they were the only three Whiting’s in Kotzebue. 

Siikauraq told me about the first time she ran for borough mayor and how unknown her last name was to the region. She was advised to add her face to her campaign in order to be recognized with her new name. Through this process, she began to create a well-known last name for her daughter to now identify herself with. 

I am also deeply influenced by Siikauraq’s passion and drive for a brighter future in the NANA region. She gets involved and does as much as she can because she believes in it, but at the end of the day, too, it may not really be enough. It is not enough because there’s always a different direction to reach towards. 

MISS was founded by the passionate drive behind seeing something wrong and speaking up about it. It drives to make people more comfortable with being aware of the social ills so we can begin learning what we can do to fix the problem. It is a movement towards combating rape culture, a culture in which rape and abuse is normalized or accepted. The MISS movement should provide outlets to the victims in order to bring these women (or men) another step closer to healing. 

Since the debut of MISS, I have already been a personal outlet for 5 victims. Three of them weren’t considered “close” friends but they admitted they felt more comfortable speaking to me because I have already spoken up about being against it. Just being against it. Two of them were opening up for their first time in almost 5 years to me. One of them I had known for my entire life and had no idea (at all!) that she was affected by it. Each of them admitted being able to tell someone who offered to just listen helped them more than they thought it really could. 

I don’t want MISS to be the only outlet. There is only so much that the two of us can do. I believe that there are a lot more people out there who believe in the same things I do and want the same change, too. It begins with admitting what you are fighting for. Speak out about being against rape culture through MISS by simply writing “I am for MISS.” on the Facebook page. 

Writing this message on our public page will provide the victims an idea of who they can turn to. Sometimes, the only thing they need is someone who is willing to listen but they may not know who to begin with. If you are uncomfortable with publicly admitting it, please let your close friends or family know privately. Just in case. 

The first step to making a change is by speaking out. You have recently read about the difference Teressa Baldwin has made by simply telling her story with Hope4Alaska. Savanah Kramer has also done the same through No Make Up Mondays. 

Are you for MISS?
  • Rape culture is a culture in which rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence is normalized or accepted. 
  • This is not just a “women’s issue” and we must recognize that not all men commit the crime and not only women are the victims. 
  • The only step to improvement is if both sides work together. (Women AND Men)
  • Supporters should not stay silent and are encouraged to reach out to peers. 
  • Violence is a choice. It should not be excused. 
  • We must raise awareness of the possible and simple supporters. Let the victims know there are more outlets they can speak to. 
  • Showing support is helping the victims in the healing process by allowing them to not be silenced. 

Write “I am for MISS.” on our Facebook wall.

-Jacqui Lambert

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex

In ch. 5 "Male Sexual Being" hooks discusses sex as integral to manhood. She proposes that our society builds expectations of men having sex: sex is something that men simply must have. I appreciate her analysis of what sex means in our society, and found her distinction of sex and love interesting. Hooks writes that love is more taboo in our society than sex. Men in a patriarchal society are more encouraged to have sex than to love. Hooks claims that men need to be loved, and seek satisfaction for this need through sex. They fail to find love in sex, creating frustrations, and in short, disconnects between society, sex, and love create sexual violence. I think that the answer to this problem is more talking about sex in society. I don't quite agree with hooks' claim that love is more taboo than sex, because I think that sex isn't discussed enough. Perhaps our society talks about sex, but it is more of a fetish, dramatized in media and glossed over in high school than a dialogue about what sex is, what sex means, what it doesn't mean.

As a graduate of Kotzebue High School I can tell you that they did not talk to us about sex. In health class we talked about "the danger zone" which came after kissing and petting. I can tell you from experience as a high schooler at KHS, just because you don't say it out loud doesn't stop it from happening. Young adults are exploring sex whether their parents/teachers like it or not. Isn't it better to equip them with knowledge of how to have a safe and healthy sex life? Open discourse and education will lead to a better understanding of our values and allow young adults to make an informed decision about when and with who they will engage in sexual activity.

--Hannah Atkinson