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Discussing feminism with women today

(129 Posts)
ContentedLittleMummy Tue 30-Jul-13 18:54:24

A post was opened about feminism on a forum I'm on. I'm a feminist, leaning more towards rad feminism but not buying into all their ideology. I don't believe men can be feminists, I think they can sympathise with the movement, as I can say against race rights, but they haven't truly experienced being a woman in a partiarchal society.

I got called names and a "man hater" and all sorts of horrible things, and I wondering if my beliefs are really out there and a bit insane?! I'm married to a man with two sons, and I don't "hate men" and I know that's a lazy thing to call a feminist but it's really got me down.

FreyaSnow Thu 01-Aug-13 17:59:22

I would not claim to be any kind of expert on mental health, and I think the topic of men and women and mental health deserves a thread in its own right. That said, I would suggest it is the case that preventing deaths due to mental health issues requires interventions at earlier points in the person's life.

There are behaviours that are far more likely to lead to death that women more frequently carry out than men. People with anorexia nervosa are more likely to die from their illness than people with any other sort of mental health disorder. If people exhibit symptoms of anorexia, people around them and mental health services are likely to intervene and think some of that person's choices should be decided with others or sometimes solely by others.

Two issues that are not in themselves mental health issues, 'self harm by ingestion' and 'problematic drug use' are not in themselves cause to section somebody, but they can lead to intervention and being sectioned if there are other accompanying health problems like depression.

Taking harmful substances is usually referred to as 'self harm' if the person is a woman and chooses substances associated with women (over the counter or prescription medications that contain cocaine, sedatives etc, hosuehold cleaning products). It is commonly seen by the public as a 'cry for help' and by professionals as a 'coping mechanism.' This remains the case even when the woman claims it is for adrenalin rush, physiological impact etc. There will usually be attempts by others to control or end their behaviour, and to tie it into mental health issues and get the person mental help.

Taking of harmful substances is usually referred to as 'problematic drug use' if the person is a man and chooses substances associated with men (heroin, cocaine, household DIY products like glue). It is commonly seen by the public as 'risk taking' or 'addiction' and by professionals as a 'coping mechanism.' There is much effort put in to viewing this as a 'choice,' a matter of personal freedom and money is put into providing safety advice around continued drug use, safer drug replacements and needle exchanges for those that inject. People with a dual diagnosis of problematic drug use and mental health problems often fall into a gap with a paucity of provision for people with both.

I would suggest this is a problem that exists across all gendered behavioural issues. If a women does something that is dangerous to themselves or others, it is seen as a cry for help or an inability to manage their lives. People, including the state, feel they can and should intervene in a paternal way with that person. If men does something that is dangerous to themselves or others, it is often seen as masculine risk taking or assertive behaviour that other people should not intervene with as it is a matter of personal freedom, until the point they die or end up in prison (90% of prisoners have a mental health issue).

I do not see feminism as being the cause of allowing men greater freedom to engage in behaviour or ways of thinking that increase their likelihood of destroying their lives or increase their risk of death from mental health issues. Quite the opposite in fact. But it would require a massive change in how we view the autonomy of men and women and the the problems of hyper-masculinity and femininity to change that situation, not just some tinkering with relative proportions of mental health funding given to issues that have an impact on men and women.

I do not mean this to be a polemic. I am sure there are many other factors at play.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 01-Aug-13 17:47:54

>"Why aren't boys being given the HPV immunisation?

One thing to add to what vesuvia wrote; its probably to do with risk/benefit balance being entirely different. Vaccinations usually come with a small risk. In the case of girls, the benefits outweigh the risks. From those stats, probably the same doesn't apply to boys. There was a thread on HPV with parents of girls saying that boys should be vaccinated - and parents of boys rejecting the idea!

Beachcomber Thu 01-Aug-13 17:37:29

See, this is the problem with the concept of equality WRT to sex based oppression.

Equality is a really flawed and limited concept when applied to women and men and the dismantling of male supremacy. I might start a thread on it.

scallopsrgreat Thu 01-Aug-13 16:58:29

Thanks vesuvia, that's really interesting. I certainly didn't know that.

I find it really hmm that protecting girls is considered discriminating against boys.

Chubfuddler Thu 01-Aug-13 16:53:56

"Boys suffer from exactly the same cancers"

I would be very surprised if that were so.

CaptChaos Thu 01-Aug-13 16:48:15

I hope boys get the HPV vaccine as well, although I take issue with your assertion that men get the same cancers as women, not come across too many men with a cervix.

Women may be perpetrators, but the over-whelming majority of perpetrators are men, whether their violence is toward other men or toward women. Female perpetrators of violence are equally as bad as male ones, how's that for equality for you?

3 out of 4 people who complete suicide are men, care to hazard a guess at the numbers of women who attempt it? Or would that disparity not suit your agenda?

Let's start by teaching mutual respect? Absolutely!

Does all this mean I can't be a feminist now? Damn it! I was just getting into it as well, although, I never got a copy of the Take Over Manifesto either.

vesuvia Thu 01-Aug-13 16:45:48

dadsmatter wrote - "the Throat Cancer Forum. they are lobbying for boys to receive the HPV vaccination. Girls receive the vaccine at 13 it prevents several types of cancer. Boys suffer from exactly the same cancers and could benefit in the same way as girls."

For boys to receive the HPV vaccine seems like a good thing, but I don't think the situation is as you describe it.

I've read that HPV causes cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anus. Girls have more of those body parts than boys, so it does not seem biologically possible that boys "suffer from exactly the same cancers and could benefit in the same way as girls". Therefore, perhaps the immunisation programmes are influenced by the children's anatomy as well as the biology of the virus, because the risk for girls is greater than for boys.

Figures I've seen for the breakdown of cancer from HPV are:

Female 93%
Male 7%

86% is cervical cancer (i.e. female only)
2% is vaginal cancer (i.e. female only)
3% is penile cancer (i.e. male only)
4% is mouth and throat cancers
5% is anal cancer

I found the following question and answer on HPV vaccine section of the NHS Scotland Immunisation web page :

"Why aren't boys being given the HPV immunisation?

The main priority is to protect girls against cervical cancer. Immunising girls against the two main types HPV which are the most common causes of cervical cancer. This will raise everybody’s level of protection, girls as well as boys, because there will be fewer HPV viruses circulating."

Beachcomber Thu 01-Aug-13 15:57:53

Yes, scallopsrgreat it mostly outlines a policy of Writing Books and Reading Books and Meeting With Other Women and Saying Things. All of which threaten the very fabric of society and are equivalent to centuries of male violence against women doncha know...

Those wimmin hey! What are they like? Why are their priorities just not men?

Too right. Who do they think they are? Don't they know their place?!

scallopsrgreat Thu 01-Aug-13 15:49:17

There's a Radical Feminist World Take Over Manifesto? <faints>

Those wimmin hey! What are they like? Why are their priorities just not men?

Beachcomber Thu 01-Aug-13 15:34:27

I don't think witholding HPV vaccines from boys is in the Radical Feminist World Take Over Manifesto.

scallopsrgreat Thu 01-Aug-13 15:31:10

How are boys/men being discriminated against?

Why do you think the pendulum has swung the other way when women have virtually all the wealth and political power is still with men? When violence against women is still so high (or is it women's choices that make that so?)

Who has said anything about women never being perpetrators? But violence is gendered. It is mainly perpetrated by men and women are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

Not sure why boys not getting the HPV vaccination or high rates of male suicide is feminism's fault? Or why that is an indicator that "the gender pendulum has swung too far"?

"Lets start by teaching our children mutual respect." Let's indeed!

dadsmatter Thu 01-Aug-13 14:48:47

As a mother and grandmother of boys and girls, and also a retired equality rep. I would like to know what radical feminist want these days?. Its obvious to me it isnt equality it has to be supremacy. I am concerned about how men and boys are being discriminated against, and how mothers of boys are not reacting to the injustice they suffer.One example of this, I picked up on the Throat Cancer Forum. they are lobbying for boys to receive the HPV vaccination. Girls receive the vaccine at 13 it prevents several types of cancer. Boys suffer from exactly the same cancers and could benefit in the same way as girls.The US Canada and Austrailia are vaccinating boys with excellent results, it has a knock on effect of protecting girls.In Wales we have Nurses calling for a mens health stratergy because we are failing our men and boys. 3 out 4 people who commit suicide are men. I am sure you equality feminist would like to take this on board. You all must have fathers brothers sons who you love. Dont let the" Women are Victims" could never be perpetrators, rant of the rads fool you. Women can make choices these days and they are very much supported by trade unions and laws that have been put in place to protect. I believe the gender pendulum has swung too far. Lets start by teaching our children mutual respect.

Dervel Thu 01-Aug-13 05:22:29

As a man I don't think you're a man hater at all OP, but then again I don't think I'm a feminist either. I am always more than a little mystified why some men feel the need to identify as feminists. I am not entirely sure I really know what feminism is myself, and I’m not looking to have it explained I can study on my own time, and don’t need to take up valuable thread space on it.

I want to live in a society that is as free and as rich in opportunity for as many people as possible. By free I mean as free do to what you want, as long as it infringes on nobody else's freedom. By opportunity I mean as much opportunity as you are willing to work at to achieve. This is probably impossible, but really what other choice do we have.

Right, now having gotten the absolutely-stunningly-obvious-standard-every-bloke-in-a-feminist-thread-sort-of-thing stuff out of the way I just want to say that I’m sure feminism gets a lot wrong. I’m convinced it barks up an entire forest of wrong trees. If this thread is anything to go by it sounds like it has an identity crisis on the scale of a schizophrenic with MPD suffering from amnesia. Not and I cannot stress this strongly enough, because of anything to do with women. Merely because human beings are involved, and as far as constructing societies go we seem singularly ill equipped to do anything the sensible way, and when we come across societies that seem to have cracked it (say the Native Americans or Aborigines) we try to annihilate them. Now that I can think can safely say brings us around to masculism or patriarchy or as I like to call it moronism.

Whatever feminism gets wrong patriarchs would take the forest of wrong trees and napalm the whole thing to the ground, rendering the possibility of ever finding the right tree moot. It takes any degree of identity crisis or deviation from the norm and sticks it in a Victorian insane asylum to hide it away, and if that wasn’t bad enough passes enough electricity through it’s brain it becomes insensate and unable to put up any resistance at all. If I have learned anything about feminism at all is that women have as much right to get it as gloriously wrong and screwed up as men have, and honestly if somebody doesn’t do something it may all go belly up anyway. Now if as a movement you want me as a chap to sod off and find a different wrong tree to bark up that’s fine, I can take my healthy (and cherished) feminine side and bark away with myself and the other guys who prefer being barking to burning, and we’ll just do our best to try and stop the other fools from burning us all to the ground in our own way.

I may not “get” feminism, but you don’t have to be a woman to see we’re screwing something up somewhere as a species.

FreyaSnow Wed 31-Jul-13 23:47:11

I agree with WTR. I also think feminism can mean different things to different people. The important thing is that it brings an approach that makes people think about, however specific the situation, how there will often be differences between what is happening with men and women, and that should be considered when thinking about how to proceed. I don't feel it necessary for everyone to be in agreement. Somebody who doesn't feel they can contribute to one area of activism may be able to make a big difference to society elsewhere.

WhentheRed Wed 31-Jul-13 23:35:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Boosterseat Wed 31-Jul-13 23:17:03

As someone said upthread, there are many women who have economic class privilege who don't see any need for feminism, just as there are many working class men harmed by capitalism and patriarchy who also don't see a need for feminism.

This has been the reason for most of my most pointless exercises in discussing Feminism. Mainly with other women.

My Husband on the other hand is from a working class background supportive and sometimes insightful about being a feminist and we are pro-active with DS about feminism.

I don't see feminism as movement about gender, more about enlightenment.

There have been some excellent posts here. TIMSN nailed it for me.
Thank you mumsnet for more feminist brain food.

MiniTheMinx Wed 31-Jul-13 22:25:24

I think men can be supportive but to push their way in and claim "I'm a feminist, so listen up Galz" just perpetuates the status quo, where men feel they have a right to speak and women have an obligation to listen. I can hardly turn up at a gathering of black women and say "listen up, I'm a black women" I can still support their cause but I will have to listen carefully if I am to understand the specific problems they face.

I do think though that feminism in its present form, divorced from other struggles is not going to achieve its aims. But neither will any other single issue cause. As someone said upthread, there are many women who have economic class privilege who don't see any need for feminism, just as there are many working class men harmed by capitalism and patriarchy who also don't see a need for feminism. Gondaleeza Rice is a privileged black woman, does she worry much about the subjugation of other black women? What is really needed is an acknowledgement that 90% of us work and are exploited, 10% grow very fat from that. Within the 90% there are a huge array of people, men and women, old, young, white, black, gay, straight, enlightened men, and misogynist men and women who have internalised sexism, unless we have economic equality there will always be a women somewhere of some race that will be exploited & subjugated by someone including other women with whom she will never have equality.

Just as in fighting within feminism itself benefits patriarchy, infighting between the liberal inspired multitude of single issue activism and political allegiances benefits patriarchy and capitalism, so we have little hope of achieving our aims. Unless we listen to each other and find some way of working together, instead of seeing partial gains to women as loss of privilege to men, or RadFems feeling threatened by transwomen.

But do we need men to call themselves feminists? no. We need them to listen & understand or better still allow women the space within society and within all activism to be equal, not just feminism. For that to happen men need to take a step back and make the space for women to be heard.........everywhere, in every struggle, in every home and workplace. (if only !) & until that happens who can blame women for wanting feminist space to be women only.

GiantHaystacks Wed 31-Jul-13 21:54:53

It's interesting that this thread is about discussing feminism with women today but has turned into a thread about men and what they want. It just goes to show why some women want to exclude men from feminism - because if you don't men and all their priorities suck up all the air.

FloraFox Wed 31-Jul-13 16:44:46

I don't think in-flighting in feminism is worse than in other groups that are aiming for political change. Cohesion is much easier to achieve in groups broadly supporting the status quo because they generally want things to stay the same. Where any group is advocating for change, whether it is feminists, US civil rights movement, lefties, environmentalist, whatever, there will always be differences of opinion over what the precise perfect outcome will be. There are also sometimes more fundamental differences in analysis which can be hard to overcome even though there is a shared desire for a broad outcome. Add in passion and things will inevitably become quite heated.

Even the Tories have a hard time with cohesion when it comes to change. In-fighting among the Tories over Europe has been enormously damaging to that party.

I agree with GoshAnneGorilla about the role of men in feminism.

scallopsrgreat Wed 31-Jul-13 14:12:25

Well as the OP says in her opening paragraph "I think they can sympathise with the movement" and then in about her fifth post she reiterates that she feels men can empathise with women, I don't think she is saying that men agreeing with us is fighting our battles, ouryve.

LeBFG Wed 31-Jul-13 12:50:28

THis discussion reminds me of the battle of that other well-known rights leader, Martin Luther King. He faced the same problems and questions within the civil rights movement - defining goals and achievements - leading people collectively towards a seismic change. A lot can be learnt from him and that movement I should think. How do we mobilise people with different interests? What tactics do we employ to get there?

It's pretty lazy to say that men and women are in every way exactly the same (apart from the penis) as some sort of justification for vile behaviour. Aren't we all woking on our mutual empathy? Men empathising with women and the problems they encounter - without that I'm not sure what's left. Just war I suppose.

Beachcomber Wed 31-Jul-13 12:47:43

Very much in agreement with what you said scallopsrgreat in your post of Wed 31-Jul-13 10:58:06.

Same goes for your post just after GoshAnneGorilla.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Wed 31-Jul-13 12:43:11

Is feminism more susceptible than other political movements to infighting and defeating itself?

No, I wouldn't say so. I think if OP posted that she thought airline CEOs couldn't be in the Green Party on a thread about environmentalism , there would have been some robust disagreement too. The question of "are there characteristics that exclude a certain group from a political movement?" will always be a controversial one. (see champagne socialism)

ouryve Wed 31-Jul-13 11:59:47

CLM seemed to suggest it, scallops.

FreyaSnow Wed 31-Jul-13 11:36:21

I think that anybody can be a feminist. I also don't think you have to be gay to be a gay rights activist and so on. But I also agree with Basil that women have a right to organise their own events, marches and groups. That doesn't make the whole of feminism or women's culture women only.

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