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One of the buzz words that kept coming up at the pro-feminist men's conference at St. John's last week was accountability. How can men be accountable to women? How can pro-feminist men be accountable to the feminist movement?
There were no easy answers. Michael Kaufman, founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, wisely debunked the idea that there is some all-powerful feminist committee who serve as the accountability police. Obviously it is a diverse movement filled with folks who would consider some things okay and others offensive--as evidenced by the comment section of this very blog on a daily basis.
On the other hand, it does seem critical for men interested in doing feminist work and identifying with the feminism to be accountable to certain basic ideas--like the notion that men have, for too long, possessed a disproportionate amount of power in our society. This means that in feminist spaces, men should be cognizant of how much they talk, what sort of influence they exert, what kind of leadership they inhabit. But then again, shouldn't men and women always strive to be cognizant of these things.
And, of course, real accountability would come in creating a world where everyone gets to express their gender identity in whatever way feels most authentic, a world where no one would be forced to exist within a gender binary that didn't feel right for them. Men and women aside, this is the ultimate dream that we can be accountable for.
Anyone else have ideas about accountability within feminism? I sort of tie myself in knots trying to think through this one.
He also says that men tend to be "obtuse'' about these matters - and "need to be knocked across the head once in a while.'' He "absolutely'' had to learn to be more sensitive.
Seems like every time you turn around, a man, or a man-child, is fighting, maiming, stalking, raping or killing somebody. On a street outside Fenger High School, thugs beat a student to death. Punks used to wait for darkness to do their killing, but a fatal beating in front of an audience in broad daylight isn't something you see very often, even in Chicago.
Man shot dead in Garfield Park. West Side assassin plugs a man in the eye. Man accused of beating to death the former fiance of a cast member of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Man charged with beating to death five -- five -- members of one family. A Northfield, Minn., man indicted in the beating death of his 17-month-old stepson. James Degorski convicted of the thrill killing of seven in a Brown's Chicken restaurant. That's just a few of the crimes by men that made news in a 24-hour news cycle last week.
It's no coincidence that prisons are overflowing with men. Without men, our cities, our world, would be a safer place. No, this is not a lame parody of feminist dogma, which would blame men for every horror. But it is impossible to continue to ignore the common denominator: more than poverty, race, access to guns, anomie (or whatever sociologists call it these days), the thread linking so much violence is simply the fact that men do it. On the streets, outside schools, in homes and restaurants; in series or in isolation -- you name it, there's usually a man with a fist, club, knife or gun.
Experts have filled bookshelves with volumes of studies exploring male violence and masculinity. They look to biology, such as the male hormone, testosterone, for explanations. They look to "acculturation" and various societal influences. President Barack Obama, not to be outdone, has dispatched Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder to Chicago to investigate the death of Derrion Albert, the bludgeoned Fenger High School honor student.
This is all old ground, and I can't imagine that much new can be said. Every possible cause has been cited and undoubtedly they all play a role. But here's a thought: The reason that so many men are violent is other men.
Boys must learn from other men how to control their natural assertiveness, aggression or whatever you want to call it. Sorry, women can't do it alone. Boys must see how good men behave, and that such behavior is a fruitful way to win respect and success. Boys left without a model to show them the value of male qualities and values -- strength, bravery, practicality, decisiveness, competitiveness, discipline, loyalty, pride, independence and physicality among them -- have less chance of learning how to use them for their own or others' benefits. Obviously all these traits aren't exclusively male, but in total, they help define masculinity.
If anything's clear, not enough boys are getting these lessons. Too many men are abandoning their sons. Single motherhood, divorce and absent fathers have become plagues. Marriage is fast becoming an anachronism. What men are doing to their sons is cruel and indefensible.
Pending a return to proper fathering, something has to be done. Last week, I suggested the creation of all-male public high schools with all-male faculty. Some thoughtlessly dismissed it out of hand; one reader called the idea "fascist." Others, no doubt, consider it sexist. But I'm not giving up. Chicago Public Schools already has established several all-male charter high schools, and they are successful. Because father abandonment is so pervasive, every boy -- not just "high-risk" ones -- should attend, but of course, that's unlikely.
But take a lot of the money that was to be spent on the 2016 Summer Olympics, pump it into the Chicago school system to create more all-male schools and hire and retain good male teachers. Disciplined, strong of character, intelligent men. Men whose very presence will nourish the souls of boys who are struggling to find their way through the fog of adolescence. So that they won't get caught in the grip of gangs and violence, the only source left for achieving what they tragically believe is their true masculinity.
Gangs and violence are Chicago's biggest problem. The abandonment of civil society by too many males is a huge reason for poverty, hopelessness and violence. Chicago 2016, are you listening? It wouldn't create the kind of profits you were dreaming about, but it would, more modestly, help save the city.
Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant. He blogs at ChicagoNow.com">ChicagoNow.com">ChicagoNow.com">ChicagoNow.com
Science proves men are pigs
Still no cure for cancer. But scientists from the University of Rochester have resolved one of the great research dilemmas of our time. It turns out (drum roll please) that men are more attracted to women wearing red than to those dressed in other colors.
And get this: Men are unaware of -- among other things -- how the color affects their perception of women's attractiveness.
It turns out that it took five separate psychological experiments to determine this elusive truth.
In one, men were shown photographs of a women wearing red. Then they were shown photographs of the same woman wearing a different color. The men reported they were more likely to ask the women in red to the prom or on an expensive date.
The research was reported this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It's fascinating reading (another article seems to explore the mystery of "gaydar": "Accuracy and awareness in the perception and categorization of male sexual orientation").
Red, lead researcher Andrew Elliot noted, is linked to romance in nature. Non-human male primates are more attracted to females displaying red. Conclusion?
"As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive."
Stunned, we tell you. We're stunned.
Why men don't make it to the ballot box.
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have helped draw unprecedented attention to female voters this year. But what will men do at the ballot box on Nov. 4? And how many of them will bother to show up at all?
Over the last 40 years, some 16 million men--a population roughly the size of Michigan and Indiana combined--have stopped pulling the lever. That's a hole five times the size of George W. Bush's margin of victory in 2004. How did it get so bad? Since 1964, when a record 72 percent of voting-age men and 67 percent of voting-age women pulled the lever for president, participation rates have tumbled for both sexes--but far more steeply for men. By 1980, civics-class dropouts had flipped the gender gap. And this November, men are again the odds-on favorites to no-show at the polls.
"Unless there is an astonishing reversal of a 30-year trend," says New York University professor Rogan Kersh, an expert on voting patterns, "far fewer men than women will show up this year, both in real terms and a percentage of their gender."
Other social scientists echo Kersh, although the exact date that men fell behind differs according to how one does the counting. Data that includes all residents over age 18 finds the pivotal year to have been 1980, while figures that exclude felons and legal immigrants--groups that are disproportionately male--date it to 2004. Both formulas reveal curdling male involvement over time. "It's been a gradual but persistent separation," says Harvard University's Thomas Patterson, author of "The Vanishing Voter."
Some politicos say that the Democratic Party has suffered the most from the male malaise, since its base of white working-class men has been eroding. But the shift cuts against the GOP, too. Strong female majorities and subpar male turnout helped elect Bill Clinton to two terms. This election, the missing male vote could sink McCain, whose choice of Palin as a running mate may end up backfiring. A Pew poll late last month found that 53 percent of men have a favorable opinion of Palin--4 points higher than women. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is going where the boys are: his campaign has bought ad space on virtual billboards in videogames like John Madden Football, NBA Live and Grand Theft Auto.
Apathy, anger and inattentiveness have all contributed to a decline in voting among both genders. But some factors are almost exclusively a guy thing.
Take death. Men are, simply, more likely to be dead come Election Day. Compared to woman, men die young (in car crashes, in combat) and have a shorter life expectancy: 75 years on average for American men, compared to 80 for women. That has long given women an edge in the sheer number of eligible voters, which has helped them surge past men in total votes. In 1964, for instance, 1.7 million more woman than men voted. By 2004, that margin had spread to nearly 9 million. Mortality rates also give female voters a boost over men proportionally, since elderly Americans are the most active voting bloc--and the majority are women.
Another factor: men tend to be loners. They are less likely than women to attend church, consume news, trust authority and believe that people are generally good, according to the University of Michigan's General Social Survey, a semiannual tracking of attitudes and behaviors.
Another factor: education and employment. Graduating from college is one of the top predictors of voting, and increasingly men are falling behind their female counterparts. Over the last half century, male enrollment has dropped below that of women at the undergraduate level, falling from two thirds of the national student body in 1958 to less than half--43 percent--today. Even if men do have the same education as women, they aren't necessarily as likely to hit the polls. Consumed by economic anxiety and longer work hours (the top fifth of male earners have seen their work days grow a staggering 80 percent since 1980, according to a study by the economists Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano) today's Company Men may not make voting a priority. "The added work hours may have sapped time and energy for civic participation," says New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, author of the forthcoming book "Elsewhere, USA," which unpacks the social and economic roots of our preoccupation with work.
Other men may have more time on their hands than they want. Of the roughly 5.3 million convicted felons barred from voting in this country, more than 80 percent are men, says Erica Wood, deputy director of NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. That number has steadily swelled since the 1980s, adds University of California, San Diego, political scientist and statistician Samuel Popkin, who explains the male voting problem simply: "Men go to jail."
The remaining 12 million men--the nonfelons--who still aren't voting at the rate their fathers did might just be stubborn. "Men tend to view voting as a choice," says Lyn Ragsdale, a political scientist at Rice University who is working on a book about nonvoters. Fortunately there is hope for the nonvoting male: women. In recent years, women have upended the conventional wisdom that they follow their husbands on Election Day--an idea once so entrenched that in the 1930s poll-master George Gallup didn't even bother canvassing women on their political choices. (He once remarked: "How will women vote on Election Day? Just as exactly as they were told the night before.") Today, married men are not only more likely to vote than their single counterparts, but, according to sociologist Michael Kimmel, they are likely to be swayed by their wife's choice at the voting booth. Smart move.
Some politicos say that the Democratic Party has suffered the most from the male malaise, since its base of white working-class men has been eroding.
Take death. Men are, simply, more likely to be dead come Election Day.
Fortunately there is hope for the nonvoting male: women.
Today, married men are not only more likely to vote than their single counterparts, but, according to sociologist Michael Kimmel, they are likely to be swayed by their wife's choice at the voting booth. Smart move.
Tue Dec 18, 5:38 PM ET
A woman who was angry because her husband wanted her to turn up the heat pulled out a gun and shot their flat-screen TV while he cowered behind a pillow, Macomb County authorities say.
The 65-year-old man called 911 Sunday night from the basement of their Washington Township home, about 25 miles north of Detroit.
"My wife's got a gun. She's shooting at me," Joseph Grucz said in the recorded call.
He told the operator that Cheryl Grucz, 61, was angry because he wanted the heat turned up. She fired a round while he hid his head in a pillow, striking the plasma TV, then went upstairs, the Detroit Free Press said.
"She's all excited about it because she's so cheap," the husband said.
His wife, who had picked up another extension, told the operator she wanted to tell her side.
"I'm not going to hurt him. He has pushed me over the edge, that was all," Cheryl Grucz said, according to a recording obtained by WXYZ-TV. "He has had a stroke, and he's taking it all out on me."
"No I'm not," her husband said.
"Yes, he is," she told the dispatcher.
Cheryl Grucz was arraigned Monday in Romeo District Court on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, a charge with a top penalty of 10 years in prison. She also faces a felony firearms charge. Grucz was freed on $50,000 bond until a preliminary examination Jan. 15.
The judge also ordered her to enroll in a domestic violence program, WDIV-TV said.
WGN aired a piece last night about father-to-be Zachary Duenow, who wore an "empathy belly" for nine months so he could experience some of the symptoms of pregnancy.
But as my friend and colleague Heidi Stevens so rightly wondered:
"Why? Why can't men just let us have pregnancy? It's one of the few things we get. It reminds me of the time a friend was telling me about her labor experience and her husband had to follow up with his story about how painful his knee surgery was.
It's not about you, guys."
I don't understand why you are complaining about this man who is trying to empathize with his wife. He's doing a lot more than most fathers-to-be do. Instead of commending him for thinking about his wife, you lambaste him to no end, because men can't possibly understand what it is like to be pregnant and deliver a child.
I've come to the conclusion that you hate men. Yes, I get it. Men can never become pregnant. Women do all the work. But without men, women would never become pregnant. I've read many of your columns and I just don't understand why you seem to always act like being pregnant is the equivalent of martyrdom. My wife has been pregnant 4 times and I've never heard her complain about half the things that you do