OF MEN… : MASCULINITIES STUDIES AND THE GRASSROOTS REALITY

I’ll refer here to an article by Alejandra Agudo published in El País on March 18th: “Hablan los ‘nuevos’ hombres. Son feministas, igualitarios, cuidadores. Paco Abril, Octavio Salazar y José Ángel Lozoya defienden una sociedad más justa en la que ellos pierden poder” (https://elpais.com/elpais/2016/03/18/planeta_futuro/1458333179_184806.html). These three men were participants in the conference celebrated at the Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Paternidades que transforman (https://aitak.deusto.es/), hence their joint interview. I know Paco Abril from the seminars held by the research group I have worked with in the last four years, ‘Constructing New Masculinities’ (https://www.ub.edu/masculinities/), and I have a great deal of respect for him. He is a sociologist and a teacher at the Universitat de Girona and, above all, a pro-feminist activist for equality, the president of the Catalan branch of AHIGE (Asociación de Hombres por la Igualdad de Género, https://www.ahige.org/). I had never heard of José Ángel Lozoya, a member of the Red de Hombres por la Igualdad (https://www.redhombresigualdad.org/web/) who defines himself as “househusband, sexologist and gender specialist”. The name of Octavio Salazar, who teaches law at the Universidad de Córdoba, is more familiar, perhaps because he also writes for El País.

I find nothing particularly controversial in the article, which essentially confirms the impression that while the number of men who defend equality in their private lives is (slowly) increasing, men’s public activism is extremely limited. Men like Abril, Lozoya and Salazar do not represent, then, a recognizable movement but appear to be, rather, inhabitants of tiny islands of equality in a vast sea of inequality (excuse the corny metaphor). The sad, sad thing is that you needn’t go very far to see the enormous resistance they face: you just have to read the readers’ comments added to the article at the bottom of the webpage. Remember this is El País, supposedly a progressive newspaper read by liberal-minded persons.

There are very few positive comments, perhaps about 5 in a discussion amounting to 178 comments, and I must note that the most virulent opinions have been erased by whoever in El País monitors this kind of exchange. I have highlighted a few sentences, all by men, except where indicated; if you allow me, I’ll leave them in the original Spanish version, for the ‘castizo’, ‘machista’ nuances not to be lost in translation:

*Teniendo en cuenta lo que significa hoy en día el término ‘feminista’, un hombre que se defina como ‘feminista’… no es un hombre. (original ellipsis)
*Esos hombres no representan a los hombres ni a la igualdad. Son un instrumento al servicio del feminismo más radical. (…) En realidad, quienes defienden la igualdad de los hombres y los derechos de estos son los activistas por los derechos de los hombres o masculinistas.
*(…) Los retos de los nuevos tiempos nos deben de hacer reaccionar para no perder nuestro estatus y nuestra posición de privilegio en la sociedad. (…) ¿Nuevos hombres? no es mas que otra patraña de las que quieren desplazarnos de la esfera de poder para ser ocupada por ellas. (…)
*Y digo yo, ¿a Lozoya, las mujeres le endurecen la …..????
*[by a woman] (…) como mujer me gustan los varones hombres, sin cortapisas, ni melandros(sic)… la masculinidad es un valor en baja… Creo en la igualdad, no en la estupidez y lo digo como mujer que cada día lucha por ello, pero seriamente. (original ellipses)
*Lo que llegan a hacer algunos para ligar …
*(…) si estos tíos quieren luchar por la igualdad de derechos, que se pongan a a luchar por una ley de divorcio justa para los hombres (…) no veo a los colectivos feministas protestar por esto, ni por las denuncias falsas de maltrato, más del 80% de los casos, ¡¡es increíble!! (…)
*Señores, déjense de feminismos y de odiarse a sí mismos. No necesitan expiar sus pecados de varón, ya son buenos hombres porque sí, no por la luz salvadora del feminismo.
*¿Están siendo los hombres lo que de verdad desean ser o es el feminismo el que decide lo que debe ser un hombre? Parece haber un sentimiento de culpa derivado de una reducción de los hombres a machistas, maltratadores, violadores… que no deja libertad de elección. Me parece igualmente triste esa representación de una masculinidad obediente, bondadosa y dulce, que vive más pendiente del reconocimiento de su buena conducta que de su verdad. (original ellipsis)
*La masculinidad nunca ha abusado ni de la mujer ni de nadie. La paternidad comprometida ha sido lo único que ha movido a los hombres de todas las generaciones. (…)
*¿Y éstos marcianos de que país vienen?
*Me parece muy respetable que estos señores sigan un ‘modelo’ de vida acorde a sus ideas. Yo defenderé el derecho que tienen a seguir ese modelo. También supongo, y espero, que estos señores y los medios de comunicación desde donde se expande este ideario actuen con el mismo rasero y defiendan el derecho de los que no quieran seguir ese ideal.

These readers–and, please note that each passage corresponds to a different reader– might not represent all the Spanish defenders of patriarchy out there. It might well be, besides, that their in-your-face tone is deterrent enough for other men and women to express their anti-patriarchal views. I myself see no point in attracting plenty of negative energy by sending comments to this type of forum–yes, a bit cowardly of me. Yet I have come across the same or similar points in so many comments in different newspapers that I firmly believe they do represent our local reality too well. What is most disarming is the recalcitrance, by which I mean the impossibility of addressing these men in rational dialogue. I still have hopes that men like Abril, Lozoya and Salazar–and others like Luis Bonino and Miguel Lorente–can reach men in a way that feminist women cannot but I had not realized how much courage their task requires.

Recently, I tried to explain over a long coffee to a (male) colleague just arrived in the field of Masculinities Studies what these aim at and how little we have progressed. He was a bit alarmed, I must say, at my bleak panorama but I want nonetheless to reaffirm the (utopian?) ideas I am defending from my position. Unlike many other women who simply misunderstand what feminism is about–the struggle for equal rights–I have no problem to declare myself a feminist. I do not believe, however, that women can reach equality without men’s participation in a wide-ranging anti-patriarchal struggle. I preach to whomever listens that the common enemy is not masculinity but patriarchy, a social organization based on hierarchy conditioned by the individual’s degree of power and so insidious that its biggest triumph is making us believe there is no alternative to it. Yet, there is: a society based on equality among all citizens in which the will to help and not the will to power is the main aim. Sorry to sound so hippy.

I believe that we women have been thinking and doing for decades plenty to try to enjoy a better life but that we are facing enormous obstacles which have to do with women’s own complicity with patriarchy but, above all, with men’s lack of a clear anti-patriarchal agenda. In times when the patriarchal agenda is crystal clear and gaining adepts all over the world–think DAESH–the lack of a well-defined anti-patriarchal front is our worse enemy, both in the private and the public front. In the private front, it seems obvious to me that legislation is far from helping to stop the daily terrorist attacks committed against women and children by patriarchal abusers (I’m horrified to see that right here in my city the Maristas have chosen to defend rather than accuse the teachers who abused so many very young students in their schools). In the public front, it is simply not very clear on behalf of what we are fighting DAESH, for, if it’s human rights, then the refugee crisis sweeping Europe from East to West shows that nobody really cares to defend these rights. For all these I am using a good deal of my academic energy to insist that men have to become not (just) feminists but anti-patriarchal activists. It is my belief that if men are made aware of how evil patriarchy is and they embrace an anti-patriarchal stance then, automatically, they also become defenders of equality (pro-feminist) and the bane of any abuser.

It’s not, then, not only for me as a feminist to criticize and attack the men (and women) who have written the appalling comments I have reproduced here, nor for other women: men are the ones who should say ‘enough is enough’, patriarchy cannot and should not define masculinity for there are much better ways of being a man. Gentlemen: you are all invited to join the anti-patriarchal fight. Begin by freeing yourselves from the monster holding you down.

Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. You may download the yearly volumes from https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See my publications and activities on my personal web https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.