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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A New SCUM Manifesto: Shaping and Creating Unity with Men (2009)



US, anarchist journal, Nor'easter #8 page 8-9
By HANNAH E. DOBBZ

Valerie Solanas wrote the infamous SCUM Manifesto in 1968 - the same year that she shot Andy Warhol. A snapshot of extremism, SCUM Manifesto does not arise from the brand of feminism that seeks to eliminate sexism, as discussed in the works of authors like bell hooks or Emma Goldman. Rather, as the acronym â Society for Cutting Up Men - aptly suggests, Solanasâ feminism is more precisely about the elimination of men. ---- Not all feminists want to âcut upâ men, of course. Most of them would rather âcut upâ sexism and patriarchy. Some men, moreover, even describe themselves as feminists because they wish to do the same thing. ---- Male feminists outside the realm of Solanas-ian thought look beyond the binary of female feminists versus male chauvinists; these male allies to feminism are (to a Solanasianâs chagrin) working to eliminate sexism, misunderstanding and the things that made Solanas believe a whole gender was ânot ethically entitled to live.â

âDude Festâ

In 2004, a group of socially
conscious men in Washington,
D.C., organized the first
Different Kind of Dude
Fest (DKDF). A âdude
fest,â in crude vernacular,
is a party with mostly
men in attendance.

Itâs generally considered a bad party because
there arenât any (or many) women there. The
organizers of DKDF adopted and co-opted
the term with the hope that, at this fest full
of dudes, they could avoid the perpetuation
of gendered assumptions and instead push an
anti-sexist agenda.
DKDF was primarily targeted at men in
the punk and radical subcultures who were
interested in overcoming sexist patterns in
order to learn how to be better allies to their
female friends. The festival featured a series
of discussions and workshops during the day
and showcased punk and hardcore bands in
the evening. Cary Miller, now 29, attended
a workshop at DKDF designed to help men
speak out when they witness sexual harassment
on the street.
As Miller described the workshop, male
participants took turns learning how to
object to male harassers. The role-playing was
evidently âcornyâ at first; Miller noted that
everyone initially felt a little awkward, which is
common when learning new behaviors. But the
next day, Miller recalled, he was
walking to the bus station and
saw a man harass two women.
It was at that point, he said,
that it âjust came to him.â
Instead of letting
the incident take course,
Miller chose to speak out by
telling the harasser that he âdidnât
want to hear it.â The man stopped
talking to the women, and Miller kept on his
way. âI thought, âI did this once and all I have
to do is open my mouth,ââ he said.
Miller left the festival feeling inspired.
Upon returning home to Philadelphia, he and
his friends were compelled to organize a group
that they called the Philly Dudes Collective.
âWe were excited but unsatisfied with
the type of questions that were asked at the
Different Kind of Dude Fest,â Miller said.
âThe level of challenging ourselves was surface
level. So we decided to start Philly Dudes
[Collective].â
On a monthly basis, the group held open
community discussion forums for men only,
which they promoted by flyer throughout the
city. Miller explained that the goal of the menâs
group was to get men teaching both themselves
and other men about anti-sexism issues:
âThese are issues that most men are not
thinking about critically,â he said, âand theyâre
not thinking about them in terms of fighting
oppression. [Also], learning to communicate
with men about a variety of subjects and
practicing talking to men about sexual assault,
or anything â it just does not happen.â
Philly Dudes Collective became an
educational outlet, which, since its formation,
has hosted male-ally workshops at the
National Conference on Organized Resistance
(NCOR) in D.C., the Visions in Feminism
(VIF) Conference in D.C., the National
Association of Student Co-ops (NASCO),
the Mid-Atlantic Anti-Racist Action (ARA)
Conference in Philadelphia, the Eastern
Conference on Workplace Democracy
(ECWD), and a retreat for men in the
Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG)
of the Common Ground Collective in
New Orleans.
âThe more practice men get talking
about that stuff in a safe space,â Miller
said, âthe more comfortable theyâre going
to feel talking about it outside of that
space.â

Feminism Is for Ever ybody

Miller considers himself a feminist.
But within a struggle that has been
marketed as a crusade against female
inequality, rather than as a quest for human
egalitarianism, the notion of a male feminist
seems oxymoronic to some.
However, now that more people are visibly
and publicly transcending the traditional
bounds of gender (e.g. queer, trans, gender-
queer, gender-neutral, third gender), many
feminists find that it is time for the movement
to transcend gender as well. This notion hardly
necessitates the abolition of gender â as in
immediately adopting the mythical âlevel
playing fieldâ â but
rather a reexamination
of whom the feminist
struggle is for and what
it seeks to accomplish.
Some have attempted to outline
menâs role in feminist
struggle, including the
anonymous male author of the
zine âSaid the Pot to the Kettle:
Feminist Theory for Anarchist Men.â
âWe cannot co-opt the
struggle for womenâs liberation
away from women,â he writes, âbut instead
ought to do what we can to support them.
Primarily, we need to deconstruct the
patriarchal attitudes within ourselves and help
each other through the process. It would be
beautiful if our male-to-male friendships were
strong enough to discuss the complex issues
involved; a lot of women are pretty sick of
having to hold our hands.â
Miller describes feminism for males in
another, simpler way: âTreating people with
human dignity, fairness, compassion, mercy,
help when itâs needed and support. I look
at it as a way of understanding systems of
oppression and personal behavior that prevent
those things from happening,â he went on. âI
use that word [feminism] fairly widely for a
range of gender issues and sex issues, as a way
of analyzing oppression using gender or sexual
differences.â

Male Allies in Action

Sonya Mendoza is a 25-year-old half-
Jewish, half-Mexican organizer for Visions
in Feminism (VIF) â an annual feminist
conference held at American University in
Washington, D.C. The conference (which will
see its 11th year in 2010) emphasizes local
issues and hosts workshops and discussions on
womenâs and trans issues, as well as a keynote
speaker.
âThere are so many great things [that
feminism has accomplished], but we never
want to acknowledge the bad things or the
screwed-up things. And that really handicaps
us,â Mendoza said, pointing out the need for
a continued conversation among genders
despite the advances that feminism has
made over the years. âWe never work on
interpersonal relationships, and itâs never
going to happen if we donât.â
It was this dilemma that drew Miller and
the Philly Dudes Collective to VIF in 2005,
where they gave a workshop on how to be a
âmale allyâ in the punk scene. Part of Millerâs
own journey to be a âmale ally to feminism and
feminist struggle,â he said, involves constantly
trying to understand his personal behaviors
as a white, mostly heterosexual man. âItâs
very hard to see the privileges I have; it takes
a lot of practice and constant thinking. When
I consider myself as an ally, I consider action
to be pretty crucial to that. Itâs a two-pronged
attack: (1) Providing support roles to women
in their struggles â or people who arenât men
(trans, queer) â so they can do more work
and more effective work. (2) Working with
other men and rais[ing] other menâs awareness
about those issues.â
Miller is not alone in his ally work.
Philadelphia is also home to Phillyâs Pissed
and Philly Stands Up â response organizations
to sexual assault in Philadelphiaâs punk and
radical communities.
Philly Stands Up works with people
who have assaulted others to hold them
accountable to the survivors and to help
restore their relationships within their
communities. According to their mission
statement, âIn dealing with perpetrators, we
seek to recognize and change behavior, rather
than ostracizing and allowing future assaults
elsewhere. We support their healing process
and challenge them on their behavior in order
to prevent future assaults.â The group expects
perpetrators to choose to work with them as an
alternative to community blacklisting.
Conversely, Phillyâs Pissed (the sister
organization to Philly Stands Up) acts as a
survivor support group, working directly with
survivors of sexual assault to provide them
with the resources that they need in order to
heal.
According to Miller, there was a great
deal of communication and volunteer overlap
between Phillyâs Pissed, Philly Stands Up and
the Philly Dudes Collective. In fact, Miller
stated that the Dudes Collective only had the
freedom to organize discussions between men
about issues of masculinity because Pissed
and Stands Up were doing active work with
survivors and perpetrators. The more pressing
work of Pissed and Stands Up allowed for the
less-pressing, longer-term work of the Dudes
Collective.
Washington, D.C., has a similar network:
In addition to the Visions in Feminism
conference and the inspirational Different
Kind of Dude Fest, D.C. is home to Men
Can Stop Rape (MCSR) â a volunteer-run
pro-feminist collective founded in 1987 by a
handful of men seeking to raise their own and
their communityâs consciousness about menâs
violence against women. In past years, a bulk
of the profits from DKDF has been donated to
Men Can Stop Rape.
MCSR acts as an umbrella organization
to other anti-sexist programs, including âMen
of Strength,â which teaches high-school-
aged males that they can be strong without
being violent. In 2001, the program was
implemented in every public high school in
the District, which was a remarkable stride for
the anti-sexism movement.
Developing an awareness of privilege is
certainly an important step toward overcoming
it, but it is only one piece of a very large
and complex process. And it raises a crucial
question: Is it more appropriate to renounce
oneâs male privilege or to use it as leverage to
further the struggle for egalitarianism?
âIn my life,â Miller said, âI try to think
about each situation strategically. There are
definitely situations in which I wish I didnât
have privilege, some in which I try to reduce or
nullify my privilege, and many, many situations
in which I am totally going to use my privilege
to talk to another man so he might actually
listen to me. Ideally, you can raise the idea
that this is privilege: Why are you listening
to this from me when such-and-such woman
said the same thing two minutes ago? There
is realistically no way for me to get rid of my
privilege within my lifetime, so Iâve got to use
it how I can be most effective.â

Teaming Up with Dudettes

After working with the Philly Dudes
Collective for two years, Miller moved away
from Philadelphia and began organizing a
menâs group in his new home of Pittsburgh,
Pa. This new menâs group was inspired by its
X-chromosomed predecessor, the Pittsburgh
Radical Wimminâs Group, which had been
meeting since March 2007âs National
Conference on Organized Resistance. The
group had open membership for women
and no mission statement. According to one
member of the group, it was âa space to talk
with other women about being a woman in
this world.â
The now-defunct Wimminâs Group hosted
âstructured discussionsâ and analyzed sexism
within the radical community. Group organizer
Heather Smith said she might have described
some of the women involved as âseparatist.â
But Smith said she doesnât like the idea of
giving up on 50 percent of the population;
she would rather brainstorm solutions to the
sexism experienced in our culture â and more
directly, the sexism in her community.
With knowledge of Cary Millerâs previous
experience in organizing menâs groups on the
eastern end of Pennsylvania, Smith suggested
that he establish a local version of the Philly
Dudes Collective. Miller and fellow male ally
Jared Ondovchik then worked to orchestrate
an anti-patriarchy discussion group for men in
Pittsburghâs radical community.
According to Ondovchik, Smith was not
the only woman encouraging him to start a
menâs group. âWhen we started talking about
setting something up,â he said, âso many
women suddenly began coming forward and
telling me how much we really needed to do
this. All the [women] in the room jumped
up and started talking 90 miles an hour. And
that didnât scare me, but what scared me was
the profound emphasis on how bad that was
needed.â
Acknowledging the overwhelming call for
a group that would address gender inequities
within the community, Ondovchik asked a
relevant but unnerving question: âWhat do
you do after you get all the guys together?
What if we all just sit together in the room
awkwardly?â
The Wimminâs Group had a similar fear.
Their discussions had raised the issue of menâs
education â and while most women did not
have an interest in the tedious task of schooling
their male counterparts, they wondered if the
men would have the tools to teach themselves.
The women rationalized in circles, continually
asking, âWhose problem is sexism?â They
feared that a group of men left to discuss
sexism among themselves would play out like
a group of white people trying to deconstruct
racism â in other words, they wouldnât know
where to begin.
âI view these groups in very similar terms
to womenâs consciousness-raising groups,â
Miller said, âbut there are very important
distinctions as far as power dynamics: where
you are in terms of oppressed and oppressor.â
One possible solution that the Wimminâs
Group devised was joining forces with the
menâs group to create a mentoring program.
That way, men would have some guidance and
women wouldnât feel like they had to explain
absolutely everything that the men were doing
wrong. Instead, the co-mentors would meet
at a designated time each week to discuss
anything sexist that may have happened since
they last met, and to ask each other questions
about how it should have been handled.
Unfortunately, the mentoring program
never took shape, as attendance at Pittsburghâs
first male-ally discussion group turned out
to be pitiful. Although the organizers felt
defeated by community disinterest, they tried
not to lose steam for the project on account of
the failure.
âOnly four people came,â said Smith,
âwhich was disappointing to all of us. But â it
was four more men talking about sexism than
the day before.â
Miller claims he has no delusions
that getting men involved in anti-sexism
discussions is an easy task. He knows from
experience that it is hard work and takes a
long time, especially since many men become
defensive or dismissive when confronted with
the subject of feminism and sexism.
Miller notes that male interactions tend
to be competitive and escalatory by virtue of
socialization. Escalation is counterproductive
to feminist struggle, as well as to not getting
a black eye, so he finds it necessary to shift
that dynamic. âIâve been thinking a lot about
humor lately,â he said. âEspecially all this
sexist, homophobic humor. Questions are
really helpful in those situations, and I always
try to make them as honest of questions as
possible. If you catch somebody off guard with
a question or â even they donât say it out loud
â if they even think an answer that they werenât
expecting to think or say, thatâs a really helpful
way that Iâve found to shift that dynamic. You
usually donât get to cooperation, but at
least itâs non-competition.â

-------------------------------------

âThere is realistically no way for me to get rid
of my privilege within my lifetime, so Iâve got
to use it how I can be most effective.â

-------------------------------------
Although the task of gender
liberation may at times seem too
weighty for any one individual
to tackle, it is important
to remember that no
individual is alone.
Groups like Phillyâs
Pissed, Philly Stands
Up, Philly Dudes
Collective,
Men
Can Stop Rape and
Men of Strength
remind us that even male allies
need allies. Conferences like
Visions in Feminism keep
the dialogue going, and
as long as we remain in
communication about
the problems that
we all experience as
gendered beings,
then things can
only get better.
Moreover, it
is important to
remember that
while some men
are allies, all men
can be allies. It is a
club that requires
no invitation.
âItâs a challenge,â
Miller said, âand I
find it really helpful to
embrace that challenge.
I look at it as, âIâm a smart,
creative person, and I can
figure this out.â
--------------------------
Miller has a general list of Doâs
and Donâts for men to consider
if they wish to be male allies to
feminist struggle:

Do: *Talk to your female, queer and trans
friends about wanting to consider yourself an
ally. Be open to their thoughts, critiques and
viewpoints. Really try to understand it on a deep
level. Take it into your life. If they have critiques
of you, hear those critiques honestly instead of
closing up.

Do: *Talk to male friends. This is probably the
most uncomfortable step. You donât have to
use the words âmale allies,â and you can have
conversations in which you never use the word
âfeminism.â You can do all this without using
buzzwords that will raise peopleâs defenses.

Do: *Learn what to do if someone you know is
sexually assaulted.

Don't: *Ever assume that you have it all figured
out.
Don't: *Give up.
Philly Dudes Collective hosts a blog at:
http://phillydudes.wordpress.com.

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