Monday, October 28, 2013

Child Support

One of the issues the MRM brings up a lot is child support, and how unfair it is that men have to pay it.

I am not unsympathetic to men who have to pay child support for children they never wanted.  I think it is unethical for a woman to get pregnant on purpose (or accidentally on purpose) when she knows that the male partner is not on board.  However unethical that is, it is not illegal, nor could it be.  What they tend to overlook is that the support is to the child, not the woman, and no one reasonable can disagree that the child is the one utterly blameless party in these fiascos.

I am also sympathetic to parents who legitimately struggle to make their payments because, for example, they have lost their jobs.  States need to respond in adequate and timely manners to adjust their responsibilities and help keep them out of arrears.

Notice that I have carefully used the term "parents" (not "fathers") above.  That is because women pay child support, too, a fact that we often overlook, although it is increasing (as are the penalties against "deadbeat" moms).  The custodial guardian is not always the man; it's not even necessarily either of the biological parents.  It's sometimes the child's grandmother, or another relative.

I was reminded of that today when I overheard a female student, who appeared to be in her early twenties, tell a classmate how happy she was to have finally found a job that would enable her to start paying her child support regularly.  She was $7000 in arrears, a significant sum for a girl working as a waitress while trying to graduate from college.  What struck me was her positive and determined attitude about her responsibilities.  She didn't think the system was unfair; she didn't seem to have an ounce of resentment.  On the contrary, she was clearly looking forward to meeting her obligations.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Russell Brand Redux

Russell Brand is on fire in this interview.

I agree with everything he says.  But I'm still going to vote.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On the Lack of Domestic Violence Programs for Men

Gosh, I get tired of hearing MRAs whine about the lack of shelters for male victims of domestic violence.

Some years ago, a younger and more eager I spent a long dark winter in rural Colorado volunteering for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.  Mainly this consisted of being called in the middle of the night to drive twenty or thirty miles to meet a strange woman at a desolate McDonalds or in the back room of a police station.  It also involved accompanying women if their cases went to court.  As an advocate, I held hands, explained legal procedures, made referrals to social services, and fetched coffee (in other words, provided moral support).  The area in which I was living had an appalling rate of DV.  Unemployment was high (end of a local shale oil boom), couples were stranded in their houses for weeks on end due to the frigid temperatures, and alcoholism and drug abuse were rampant. 

It didn't take long before I burned out.  I probably imagined I was going to help pluck women like Tracey Thurman from the jaws of death, but my experience was that most of the victims were simply not very sympathetic characters, nor were they entirely "innocent" in terms of their roles in instigating violent squabbles.  Many of them had mental illness or chemical dependency issues that no amount of well-intentioned feminist theory or police intervention could address.  And most of them didn't want the kind of very limited help I could provide.  

Once they had been stitched up and sobered up, most of them made beelines back to their SOs.  There were so many things wrong with their lives (boiling down to poverty + an utter lack of imagination) that their relationships with their husbands or boyfriends were the only sources of stability and "love" that they knew, and even when that relationship was as dysfunctional as hell, it was what they could count on. 

The area I was in didn't have a shelter at the time.  Instead, we relied on a string of "safe houses" which were the modest abodes of volunteers like myself.  The unsung heroines who opened their homes as havens were periodically exposed (often by the very women they harbored), so we were always scrambling for more. It was exhausting, unrewarding effort for little payoff, and although I admired the director and her valiant team -- all unpaid volunteers BTW -- I soon conceded that I was not the right person for this particular job.

I know from personal experience that men, too, are assaulted by women.  A few years ago I dated a man who had a history of being struck by his female partners.   He recounted one prolonged argument with a girlfriend which had culminated in her "cold cocking" him in the head with a telephone, knocking him senseless.  He didn't press charges, and I was appalled to learn that this episode had hardly diminished his attraction to her -- although it was, in retrospect, a kind of red flag in terms of our own prospects.  (In fact, although I was never remotely tempted to assault him myself, he was so maddeningly passive-aggressive that I broke up with him within a few tempestuous months.)

As these anecdotes suggest, I am no saint.  I am impatient and easily frustrated by people who can't, or won't, take a strong stance for themselves.  And I recognize the line between victim and perpetrator can get mighty blurry when it comes to domestic violence: in most cases I was involved with, the woman was just as likely to have "provoked" the violent altercations that resulted in her fleeing her partner.   The problem was the size/strength differential that resulted in "him" with a scratch down the side of his face, and "her" with a broken jaw. Most of the male "perps" were not so much "evil" as really, really dumb -- too dumb to recognize how trapped they were in their own cycles of inchoate rage, dependency, helplessness, and lashing out -- despite repeated, predictable negative consequences...  200 pound toddlers, for the most part.

Of course, regardless of gender, or relative culpability, all people need refuges when they are at risk of injury in their homes.  I just don't want to be the person to create and staff these shelters. 

So why are the MRAs who demand male DV shelters pissed off that feminists like me haven't made that happen yet?  

Well, why haven't you done anything more than complain?  Paul Elam and John Hembling are paying themselves salaries with the money some of you are donating!  It's been years without any "activism" beyond harassing feminists and one very lackluster demonstration.  Why aren't any of you challenging AVfM's handling of your contributions?  Could it be that you don't really care as much about showing "compassion for men and boys" as you do "fucking up [women's] shit"?
Listen, guys, I'll be the first to donate $20, canned food, and a big box of toiletries.  You only need to get out from behind your computers, and start raising some funds.  In my neck of the woods, there are a number of thrift stores that support shelters for women, so there's a suggestion for you.  Put down your gym weights, pick up your tool boxes, and start renovating that safe house for teh menz that your community so desperately needs.  You can do it!  (And if you need advice or support, I'm sure you can find some nice feminists to help you -- you have only to ask.)

Just for God's sake quit your bloody whining before I [sarcasm alert] really give you something to whine about!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New to the Manosphere?

A succinct and temperate sympathetic introduction to the Men's Rights Movement from the Daily Beast.  Note that most of the folks at manboobz were highly critical of the piece -- especially of its kid gloves treatment of The Spearhead.  The consensus was that it emphasized MRM's "legitimate" grievances and downplayed the violently misogynistic rhetoric that is the MRM's most salient characteristic.  Still, it gives the newcomer some basic information.  Ironically, given how gently the author, R. Tod Kelly, approaches them, the MRAs are busy hating on this article.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Matt Forney Can't Go Home Again

I think there is a general consensus that Matt Forney is a Terrible Person, no?

After reading one of his recent posts, it's also clear that he is a Complete Wuss.

In "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within," he recounts a terrifying experience in which, while visiting a convenience store in upstate New York, he is forced to interact with a black guy.  Forney knows the black guy is "a bum" because he is "clad in a plaid shirt and dirty jeans."  Forney assumes he is being "hustled" because he is "dressed like a rich guy."  (Now I've seen at least three pictures of Forney, and in none of them does he look like someone who has more than two nickels to rub together.  If this guy was indeed targeting Forney in order to menace him, it is more likely because he sensed Forney's fear, which made him seem vulnerable.)

 Forney reports that his old Rochester neighborhood is becoming gentrified, whilst the "sprawling ghetto" surrounding it is being invaded by "scum" "emboldened" to "terrorize" nice [white?] neighborhoods.

As far as I know, Forney has only lived in three states: New York, North Dakota, and Oregon (and the latter two quite briefly).  However, based on this vast experience, he can declare that the entire nation is quickly morphing into one huge coast-to-coast Portland.  [Sigh! If only!]

Forney feels himself to be a stranger in a strange land... "like a soldier [!] returning home from a war to find the same people doing the same things, still going nowhere in life..."

The reader wonders how a few months tasting the music scene and railing about fat girls in Portland equates to a tour of combat, but the part of "still going nowhere in life" would seem consistent with Forney's own lack of direction.   

Forney muses, "While I'm a success in my personal life [again, I really need some photographic evidence here], there's one urge I'll never be able to fulfill: the desire to belong."  

I'm such a softie that I find Forney's claim of "personal success" heart-breakingly delusional. 

Anyway, having had this epiphany -- that he will never belong anywhere -- Forney announces he will be undertaking a second hitch-hiking trip, even though "the optimism, the joy of discovery is gone" (since he already knows the whole country is actually just Portland after all).

It's not simple curiosity or desire to visit "California, the Grand Canyon, the South and whatnot [sic]... " that sends ol' Forney down that ribbon of highway, but rather "a compulsion to insert myself into stressful, life-threatening situations... because I'm a junkie searching for an adrenaline high."

(BTW, unless Forney is planning to bungie-jump into the Grand Canyon, I can assure him that a visit to our national treasure is actually a pretty low-risk venture.  I was there a few months ago, along with about a dozen other seniors in various stages of decrepitude.)

Then Forney adds, "And because if you feel like an outsider no matter where you are, one place is as good as the next." 

Oh really?  Cuz that's not been true in my experience.  For example, having lived in both Italy and Saudi Arabia, I can attest that I found Italy to be a much better place to be an "outsider" in.  Just take my word on this.

Forney caps this post by musing, "If you romanticize this kind of thing [?], I'm pretty sure you're missing the point."  Of course, romanticizing his own lack of direction, his inability to connect with people, to establish or even maintain relationships, is exactly what he is doing here.

Now why do I call Matt Forney a wuss?  Well, I'll have you know that I myself was rather an adventurous traveler back in the day.  For example, when I was twenty-two -- younger than the intrepid MF himself -- I traveled solo from Kabul to Istanbul on buses and third class trains.  ("Midnight Express," anyone?) And I was a girl.  Sure, there were some tense moments, which made for great "stories" later, but I can proudly declare that I never "lost" my "bearings" the way Forney did when he was approached by a black man on a busy street in Rochester in broad daylight.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

20/20 Manosphere Story

In the event anyone wanders over here who hasn't already heard:  20/20 will be doing a story on the manosphere tomorrow (Friday) night.  As I commented over at manboobz, at least my friends and family will learn I haven't been making this shit up:  the New Misogynists are really A Thing.  Of course, the MRM are already complaining that Elizabeth Vargas was unethical and "hostile" in her interview with Paul Elam --  Sunshine Mary declaring it a "crucifixion", and Roosh speculating that his interview will paint him "an outlaw rapist."  Bound to be fun to watch.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Note bene:  Since posting this, Forney removed the image I refer to, and also wrote that "a bunch of feminists" (who, me?) had complained about it -- which just demonstrated how "weak" women were.  What impressed me was that it showed how Forney is constantly crawling the internet and twitter for any references to himself.  Yeah, he's that narcissistic and/or starved for attention!

Does anyone recognize the image below, of a woman entering a sottopassagio to cross a Parisian street?  It's from a 2002 French film, "Irreversible."  The movie concerns the brutal rape and beating of a young woman, and the aftermath of that trauma on her boyfriend. The prolonged (real time) rape scene which follows this image is so harrowing that it is scored into my brain.  The night I saw this film in a theatre, several members of the audience had to step out into the lobby.

Post image for Matt Forney’s Podcast Extravaganza, Episode Seven: The Game Within
I hadn't thought about that movie much until I stumbled upon this image on Matt Forney's blog (stolen, out of context, as a decorative graphic for promotion of his podcasts or some such nonsense).

To know what this image is meant to represent -- a woman unknowingly and literally walking into hell -- and to see it used so casually took me aback.   I wouldn't expect Forney's readers to recognize it; I doubt many of them are foreign film buffs.  But Forney somehow found it and planted it in his blog, and I doubt it was an accident.  How could Forney have purloined this image without knowing its origin?  Or had he, at some point, watched the movie and thought, "Wow, that chick is hawt!"?  WTF is WRONG WITH THESE GUYS?! 

Friday, October 11, 2013


Someone once told me that life was too short to read bad books.  It's good advice, really, one that I take ever-more to heart (as my life grows ever-shorter), and can apply to many areas of life (food, friends, clothing).  But maybe it doesn't go far enough. 

There is an interview in Salon today with a film-maker who claims Fox News "brain-washed" her dad.

Whether we call it "brain-washing" or not, the ubiquity of the media, which is designed to arouse our emotions while bypassing our frontal cortexes, powerfully shapes our world views. 

It makes me reflect on how young men who spend hours a day steeped in the "manosphere" are being taught to hate women.  I know many of them will say they only read bloggers like Roosh or Heartiste for their entertainment value, or to pick up "dating tips," but a steady diet of the manosphere is gonna take its toll on their psyches.  Hell, reading some of those blogs has taken a toll on my psyche, and I am an extremely critical -- nay, hostile -- reader.  All that loathing of women!  How can I not internalize some portion of that even as I dismiss it for the garbage it is?  How can it not make me feel just a little less safe and a little less worthy?

Nowadays, it's all about filtering our information, and making a continuous, conscious attempt to swim away from the sources of toxic input.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Response to an Anonymous Roosh Reader

A couple of weeks ago, an anonymous reader left a comment on my post, "On PUA."

He acknowledges "negativity and hate in the manosphere," but claims "There's no workable alternative" for men seeking advice on how to be men in a society that views "masculinity" as "inherently evil."

The existence of the "manosphere" is evidence that there are thousands of young men who feel marginalized, who need "safe spaces" in which to discuss their issues.  There is indeed more to the conversation than simply admonishing young white men to "check their privilege."  I see no evidence that the majority of women believe men are "inherently evil," although the majority of women are, to some degree, afraid of some men's predilection to violence.  May I refer you to the redoubtable Louis CK on this matter?

This is how I see it after fifty years struggling to be "a woman" on the planet:  There isn't nearly as much difference between the sexes as we like to imagine...  In general, men and women have essentially the same needs and desires: for engaging work, a sense of belonging to a community, a certain degree of physical comfort, intimate relationships.  These commonalities bring us together in the family of man. 

However, the "manosphere" denies the commonalities and instead promulgates the crudest stereotypes of gendered behavior.  Hence, the edict that "femininity" connotes subservience, delicacy and/or cunning/manipulation, whereas "masculine" men are dominant, muscular, don't eat quiche, etc.  (In fact, some men are gentle and nurturing; some women are aggressive and competitive; most people are happiest, most complete and most self-fulfilled when allowed to exhibit both "feminine" and "masculine" qualities).

BTW, as a woman, I have, over the years, also sought advice on how to "perform" my gender.  Most of the advice I got was crap, too: confusing, condescending, ultimately doing more harm than good to my psyche.

As a feminist, I reject social strait-jackets based on gender.  Feminism is the promotion of equality among the sexes, not a dystopian "women-on-top" social scenario.  It means that men and women bear equal responsibilities (yes, I include military service here), as well as equal opportunities.   

But getting back to the heart of your angst, which is how boys learn to be men in a society where many of the traditional masculine traits are no longer valued, and where many boys are growing up without a strong male role model?  I'm afraid I have no easy answer to that.  Your generation (I assume you are in your twenties), are going to have to make your own path here.  The good news is that, for the first time in milennia, you get to define your own masculinity.  In doing so, Quit looking backwards.  The false nostalgia promulgated by the manosphere is a path to obsolescence and further alienation. My best advice is to quit worrying about being "a man" (or "a woman") and instead focus on defining yourself as "a human."

Go outside of your head a little bit.  Leave the echo chamber that is the internet behind.  Literally, go outside into the air and sunshine, and look around.  Talk to other people (old, young, male, female) and really listen to them.  Connect to humanity.  Find your professional vocation by experimenting fearlessly and energetically.  Exercise patience, but maintain faith that good things (including a girlfriend) will find you when you are open to the possibilities.  Develop your core values; it helps to be judicious about what you expose your mind to.  Recognize that the best intimate relationships are based on sharing common core values.

By the way, I am shocked (although somehow not surprised) that you believe "social justice efforts are adding to the problem instead of solving it."  Honestly examine what you mean by "the problem" (whose problem?  yours?)   Cuz I guarantee that millions of women, people of color, disabled people, poor people will agree that their lives have certainly improved as the result of the past fifty years of "social justice efforts." 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feminist English Teachers!

Over at the Men's Rights Subreddit this morning, a high school student is plaintively soliciting help in dealing with his English teacher who is "very feminist."  Of course, because I am an English teacher (who also happens to be "very feminist"), this catches my attention.

The poster makes a number of claims I find quite improbable unusual:  first, that the boys are "often served detentions for being too quiet during class."  While I can imagine disciplining students for being disruptive, I've never heard of a teacher forcefully requiring students to speak in class -- although I have (gently) reprimanded students for sleeping in class.

He goes on to complain that "she started reading us articles about how men are rape creatures and are useless other than to the extent of conception [sic]."   When he complained, he was treated to another unjust detention.

BTW, in my world, spending time outside of class with students is more punitive for me than it is for them.  And another BTW, why is the teacher "reading" to her students?  Even in high school, aren't the students capable of reading for themselves?  But I digress...

What's becoming apparent to me is that this English teacher has her work cut out for her.

His third complaint is that "Every single paper that is submitted by the guys are usually barely passing [sic]."   That the male students have previously enjoyed extremely high GPAs clearly proves her anti-male gender bias.

The subsequent commentators have been predictably sympathetic ("the bitch!").  Helpful suggestions include telling the poster to record classes on his cell phone in order to provide "evidence" against the teacher.  That may or may not be permitted by school policy, but it makes sense.  I myself would love to hear what the instructor actually said, and in what context she conveyed the idea men were only sources of genetic material.  Did he abruptly wake up while she was quoting the author of some dystopian or radical feminist fantasy?  Or was he still dreaming when he "heard" her say that?  Of course, the third alternative, that she actually said and meant what he attributes to her, is possible too (possible, but not very damn likely).  In which case, and it can be proven, her head will roll...

Another commentator warned that, if the student approached administration, he not attribute the conflict to the instructor's being "a feminist... who hates men." Good advice.

That I have a liberal bias is manifest, and I freely cop to it in class.  When students ask me what I think about a current event, for example, I will tell them (and always with the proviso, "This is my opinion").  As a teacher, I do consider the extent my personal biases affect my students, especially in choosing topics to read and write about.  Sometimes, I frankly enjoy the authority to require students to think about and discuss topics I am interested in.  On the other hand, I use caution with material that might be interpreted as "male bashing" or derogatory about non-western cultures (my own culture I can freely disparage).  I try very hard to avoid writing prompts that are likely to elicit views that will upset me, too, because (1) I really, really don't want to dislike my students (after all, we're stuck with each for a whole quarter), and (2) marking papers is disagreeable enough a task without getting angry or sad about the content of those papers.  As you can imagine, just identifying "appropriate" topics can be a big part of my planning process.  Then add to that the chore of finding topics that are sufficiently "interesting" to inspire an "emerging adult" to write AND a mid-life adult to read and you can see why it is an ongoing challenge.

Anyway, next week I'm going to show them the recent documentary "Seeking Asian Female," and have them write about the mail order bride industry.  Because many of my students are from countries that are the source of many "mail order brides" (China, Vietnam, Ukraine), this could be a highly sensitive topic.

Getting back to class participation:  I have to constantly curb myself from calling on male students more than female students.  If there is a bias in that regard, it is toward the boys, mainly because they tend to be more assertive and fearless in expressing opinions.  It's rare for me to have a female student who challenges me directly or who "hogs" class attention.  What is more problematical for me are students that want to express their opinions without having done the relevant reading...