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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

What is the incentive for men to change?

42 replies

mcmooncup · 26/07/2013 16:30

Or indeed what is the penalty for not changing?

I was watching this Louis CK clip about white male privilege and yes I like his openness about his privilege about being white and male, however what struck me was the part where he basically says.....this is awesome and I am going to milk it as much as I can.



It reminded me of a conversation with my (to be fair total twat) ex-h when I was trying to explain to my DS about males privilege and DS said, well if I get into a position of power I will do good things with it and share it, and my ex-dh said "well you won't have that power for very long then will you".

There are a couple of questions for me on this:
  1. Are men really so conscious of their power and privilege?
  2. What actually are the incentives to change? Why should they relinquish some power - or maybe not why should they, but what "is in it for them?".
OP posts:
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RiaOverTheRainbow · 26/07/2013 17:27

Well the patriarchy is pretty shit for men who are too 'feminine'. Without it they could be nurses without being laughed at, nursery workers without being called paedos, wear pink or even makeup without being called gay. There would be no stigma against SAHDs and more equal childcare after divorce. Men wouldn't have the pressure of being the assumed main breadwinner. Men can't have any of that until women and women's things are recognised as equal to men.

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CiscoKid · 26/07/2013 17:39
  1. No, although many people wont like to hear that. Most are simply trying to keep their head above water.


2a. From a selfish point of view, their own offspring is one. I know some older men who are very set in their ways at home. I asked one of them if he would be happy for his daughter or his granddaughter to cook/clean/wash full-time like his wife does. He looked at me like I had taken a dump in his lunch - of course not. Even the dinosaurs recognise that things are changing, and for the better.

2b. Another selfish reason - so that women might recognise that being a man is not a continual power trip full of unlimited pleasures (waah waah, poor menz), unless you are very rich.

2c. Society misses out on 50 per cent of its potential if you deny women the same opportunities as men.

2d. It will happen anyway, so get on with it.

2e. It is the right thing to do.


I love Louis CK, and that routine is fantastic. Him being a comedian means that he isn't going to stand there wringing his hands over the situation, but instead poke fun at it.
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KoPo · 27/07/2013 23:23

Truth is there is very little incentive for men to change.

  1. They would have a tougher time on certain issues. With no privilege most men will notice the difference in their lives


  1. The patriarchy itself would kick them for daring to upset the apple cart. Men seem to have a special level of hatred for other men who appear feminine or who dare to threaten their own privilege.


  1. Those that do break rank and change will get no support from any quarter. Lets be honest here how much support are we (as feminists) going to give a man or group of men who do go against the grain and make this sort of change? They will get no support from the patriarchy and other men, and are unlikely to get any from feminist quarters. So where would the backing and support actually come from? And with no support how long are those men likely to keep it up?


This sounds very negative and pessimistic of me but I cant help feeling that atm its like trying to put out a housefire with a water pistol.
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mcmooncup · 28/07/2013 12:51

That's what I think KoPo

I just can't think of actually how men will change. Unless it is by force i.e. the law.

OP posts:
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KoPo · 28/07/2013 15:07

Trouble is mcmooncup we are part of the very problem as to why men wont change. We wont give them any support as a group and are happy to state that its an issue for men to deal with themselves and they will get no support from men either.

Until feminism as a whole gets to a point where we realise that the only way to affect change is to support men who have the courage to change we are doomed to fall flat on our faces with it. Its a numbers game in the long run.

50% (ish) of the population are male. Of the 50% (ish) of the population that are female there are lot who for many reasons are not on board with feminism at all. I have seen articles that state that only 1 in 7 UK women identify as feminists while other put the number at closer to 50%. Even if 50% of women identify as feminist that still only gives 25% of the adult population that are actively trying to affect change.

With those numbers it tells me that we are going to have to effectivly engage with men to make any real progress whatsoever.

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SinisterSal · 28/07/2013 18:54

How would that work in concrete terms?

Can you give me an example of a man doing something feminist, and feminists not supporting that? Not awarding medals is not the same as not supporting them.
I know that comes across as combative - it's not meant to be. But surely men and women know, broadly, what's fair and don't need rounds of applause to do the right thing?

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KoPo · 28/07/2013 21:09

But its not going to feel like doing the right thing is it?

They are going to get royally kicked about by the patriarchy and that alone is gonna be damned unpleasant. Add that to the fact that a great many men don't even know they are screwing up badly and are conditioned to believe that the current way is the normal right way ....

The ones that do make the changes needed are possibly going to be taking uncertain and tentative steps at first and may well need a bit of encouragement and extra support.

Its not medal awarding but it is going to need a little more than a just get on with it approach unfortunately.

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SinisterSal · 28/07/2013 21:46

But say a man who stays at home with the children, while his partner works, as an example. Feminists support that, as do non feminists, the only ones who don't are retired sargeant majors bristling & harrumphing over their port.

Or a man pointedly not laughing at rape jokes. Again, it's a small minority who'd make man suffer for taht. Surely (or am I naive?)

My point is it's not that hard to be pretty pro feminist in everyday life. It's not like women don't have internal conflict about SAHMing or wibble about being the humourless one either. That is being royally kicked about by the patriarchy too. It's not a tragedy when t happens to a man but Stop Whining Girls when it's the other way.

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CiscoKid · 29/07/2013 09:33

Our Western democratic governments are chock-full of rich, white men. When they decide to 'regime-change' in a society like Afghanistan, why do they insist on girls being allowed back into school? Why don't they just say, 'Actually, we have to respect local tradition, and as much as we don't like it, these guys don't want girls to have an education. So, that's that.'

Why aren't these white, patriarchal fat-cats leaving the girls to their fate?

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LeBFG · 29/07/2013 10:02

I've posted on other threads that I think a small but good place to start would be to valorise women's work by using positive discrimination to encourage more men in traditional women workspace e.g. primary schools and nurseries. I just met a male nursery nurse the other day! Bit of a shock where I live. Pleasantly surprised Smile.

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LeBFG · 29/07/2013 10:03

Oh, and thanks for the thread OP. These are things I've been dwelling on recently but haven't formulated well enough to post here.

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vesuvia · 29/07/2013 10:26

CiscoKid wrote - "When they decide to 'regime-change' in a society like Afghanistan, why do they insist on girls being allowed back into school? Why don't they just say, 'Actually, we have to respect local tradition, and as much as we don't like it, these guys don't want girls to have an education. So, that's that.' Why aren't these white, patriarchal fat-cats leaving the girls to their fate?"

I think the western "white, western patriarchal fat-cats" will be leaving the girls to their fate (being second class people under local patriarchy), when the western governments cut and run next year.

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CiscoKid · 29/07/2013 11:25

Perhaps. So why bother? Isn't it a waste of money? Is it just these men pretending to be doing something progressive?

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badguider · 29/07/2013 11:38

Dh's father brainwashed dh and all his sons (but not daughters) into a set of beliefs about what being successful means for a man which led him to train for a profession he doesn't enjoy and feels trapped in (he chose that road when he was 16/17 and didn't know better).

So my dh's motivation to fight the patriarchy is that he doesn't want to bring our son up with the idea that there's only one model of 'manly' success.

We don't have a daughter.. if we did I'm sure he'd fight for her right to do whatever she wants too but it's interesting to me that by fighting for freedom from gender assumptions for our 'white, male, priviledged' child we can also fight for a more equal society for women too.

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Eyesunderarock · 29/07/2013 11:49

I do feel one of the few incentives, for those men not motivated by altruism and a need for a fairer and more equal society, is that challenging the status quo enables them to step out of clearly-defined gender roles that don't suit them.
The hohum attitude of some in the Feminist camps to any attempt by men to change things, and the accusations of tokenism and being patronised by men deigning to adapt, probably put a lot of people off trying in the first place.
Many individuals won't enter a battle if there is no positive outcome or benefit, however small, for them, whether it be as individuals, or as parents of children affected.
I think if people are trying to change things for the better, on a global scale or in their own lives, then they deserve support and praise for the effort. That way, maybe they will keep going.

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FreyaSnow · 29/07/2013 12:14

The penalty for not changing from masculinity in general is that it stops you forming close relationships with women, the most decent men or children (including your own) and leaves you with only other aggressive men to socialise with. This seems to leave masculine men feeling bitter and angry and they blame women.

I have a teenage son. He's happy to be emotional, talks about how nice it will be when he grows up and has a toddler, the places he'd take them etc. He has some pleasant friends. I can also see a wider toxic culture of masculinity that leads a lot of teenage boys into violence, aggression, no compassion for others, low expectations of school achievement, no respect for women, no interest in family life etc.

I think it comes back to the word 'privilege.' Clearly men are privileged in that they are collectively wealthier than women. But most of what men collectively have that women don't isn't privilege; what they have is a collective power to treat women with contempt, disrespect, to make them feel unsafe. Treating another group of people badly to make you feel better doesn't actually work. It utlimately makes everyone miserable. I don't want that power over others and I don't think most men do either. We've all just got caught up in behaviours we'd all be happier without.

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rainrainandmorerain · 29/07/2013 13:49

I think the end game is that a more equal society benefits all of us.

However, that seems to be a hard message to get across. And existing attitudes tend to create repetitive patterns of self fulfilment (men are not drawn to things that are 'non masculine', like caring/teaching jobs, which then don't become any more 'masculine' because men aren't doing them...)

Something I'm struggling with atm is that feminist change would 'free men' from having to be the main breadwinner and let them spend more time with their children.

I'd love to think that was true. But I think that in most relationships (not all) I can see atm, the men are happier to be spending the time they do at work, and find the amount of hands on parenting they do (some at weekends) enough, frankly.

I don't know what their incentive is to change.

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LeBFG · 29/07/2013 14:37

Like I've said rain, you've got to make these sorts of jobs appealing to men. Active promotion of men in traditional women roles would be a good start.

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ThinkAboutItTomorrow · 29/07/2013 15:35

The thing I don't get is that we align best interest to gender. I know we do, it's how we are trained to think but it doesn't make much sense. Surely for those adults in a relationship that is the most meaningful segmentation of the world.

If you view a couple as a financial unit then it seems crazy that a man in a heterosexual couple would be ok with his partner earning less for the same labour than someone else. He should want his co-income earner to bring in as much as possible to lighten the load and improve both circumstances.

OK so I know this is simplistic and only one element but it does baffle me a bit sometimes, given the sort of man who really seems entrenched in male privilege is the sort who so often values personal financial gain.

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Eyesunderarock · 29/07/2013 15:43

Unless he is so under the influence of the assumption that a man's job is to provide for his family, that it is his responsibility to earn enough to provide for a SAHM to do so, that for his partner to earn as much or more than him is a shameful thing for him.
Which was the opinion a few decades ago amongst many men.

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Eyesunderarock · 29/07/2013 15:44

And women. For a woman to have to work because her husband couldn't provide was embarrassing for many middle class women of my mother's generation.

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rainrainandmorerain · 29/07/2013 15:57

I posted this on another thread, but it is relevant here - www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/05/childcare-men-pull-weight?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

A father sharing hands on parenting with his wife and having to make the adjustments/compromises that she does asks why other men don't do the same. even when they claim it is what they want.

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badguider · 29/07/2013 16:31

The guardian article is very good. But slightly simplistic in the idea that men can just 'assert their rights' to work flexibly.

My DH choose his slightly misogynistic, dominated by white male dinosaurs profession when he was 17 (it's a profession he trained exclusively towards through higher education)... and didn't have a child till he was 42. That's a BIG investment to throw away entirely now that he's realised how limiting the attitudes within in his profession are.

When he was 17 there were no voices telling him that he'd find work/life balance hard in that profession... something he will be sure to tell our son if he were to show any interest in the same field... and something that young women of 17 would have been warned about.

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rainrainandmorerain · 29/07/2013 21:17

I see your point badguider - but do you really think all 17 year old women would have been warned off that profession?

Just your post made me think - I know several women who changed profession radically after having children, to find more family friendly work - less travel, the need to work fewer hours or more flexibly -

And it was a huge wrench. Life changing decision. One went from barrister to teacher for example.

I don't know a single man who has done that.

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badguider · 29/07/2013 22:03

I think all 17yr old girls would have been warned by somebody that it isn't a 'family friendly' profession... many would not have listened though (and quite righly) :)

DH really can't change career right now while I'm off work having our child (i'm self employed so no maternity pay). I doubt any couple can afford for one to be on maternity leave and the other to retrain for a new career at the same time.

I do know one couple where the father was the stay at home dad in the early months/years but it was a real faff with him taking the baby to the mother's work for lunchtime breastfeeds etc.

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