Do you mind telling me some basic things about yourself--age, sex, where you live, where you grew up, any siblings, any children, where you attended school. ? Feel free to say as little or as much as you like.
I am thirty-nine, male, live in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in the suburbs around Boston and toward Rhode Island. I have one brother. I don’t have any kids. I went to local elementary schools, a catholic high school (co-ed) and a catholic college for both undergrad and lawschool.
Do you think men and women are different?
Yes, although the differences within each group are probably as important, or more so than the differences between the groups. The most obvious distinction is reproductive, though that only comes into play directly for those who reproduce. There are other “typical” personality type differences, but, again, variety among both men and women fairly defeats any attempt to generalize about them in a way that provides effective information for deciding things about men versus women.
What were your parents like? How much equality existed in their marriage?
My parents are both alive. They divorced when I was eight. Both of them remarried, my mother twice. Thus there are four marriages to describe. I think that in all four both people worked full-time. It was also my impression that both pitched in with maintaining the household. My mother had physical custody of my brother and me. We saw my father every few days, one weekday per week (overnight at first, then just for supper) and every other weekend. I think the major type of equality in all these marriages is that both partners were expected to work and allowed to work. I don’t recall anyone sacrificing work goals for family or in deference to the spouse. I don’t recall either spouse being dominated or marginalized when it came to family decision making.
I have the clearest memories of my parents’ second marriages. Everything I said so far applies to both. As to points of difference, my father’s marriage was more cooperative and my mother’s more contentious. Still, it wasn’t an uneven battle in any event.
How much are you involved with kids right now? If you have children, what child care arrangements have you made? Are you happy with them? Do you believe you had real choices or were your options constrained by harsh economic reality and US family policy?
I am not involved with kids right now in any significant way. I don’t have any kids. I suppose my decision not to have children was a real choice I made under the constraints of my circumstances. There is no natural opposition between “real choices” and “options constrained by harsh economic reality or government policy.” Since time immemorial, all people, save a minute wealthy minority have lived under the constraints of their means; they still got to make real choices. It is choices made without such constraint that are unreal in the sense of unrealistic or fantastic. Even the wealthy have to consider the limited time we are all granted upon this earth when deciding what projects to embark upon. We are all constrained.
What jobs have you had? Please remember to include all caregiving jobs--e.g, babysitting, parenting, elder care.
I had at least a dozen jobs of no duration or importance when I was in high school and immediately thereafter. I have never had a caregiving job. I worked as a busboy trough college and as a mortgage originator and as a lawyer since law school.
At what stage was the women's movement when you were a child and teen? Were members of your family involved? Was it talked about at home and in school?
My first memory of the women’s movement was a Doonsbury cartoon. It was around the failure of the ERA to gain final approval. A girl was going on a hunger strike to demand its passage. Once it failed she swore to stay on strike until it could be revived and passed. Her mom told her it could take years, so she decided to have a sandwich.
My family was not directly involved in the women’s movement.
I don’t know that discussion of women’s issues was ever done at our house. I do remember writing a pro-choice essay for my college applications and my father and his wife helped out. I think if the issue was touched on it was part of general liberal politics that were dominant in my house.
When did you first notice sexism, whether directed at you or anyone else? Do you ever find yourself being a sexist? Has anyone else accused you of sexism?
I’m not sure that I ever have noticed sexism, which is not to say that I haven’t been in its presence. I am sure that I have. Probably my lack of noticing is a combination of my own typical unawareness of my surroundings combined with the relative subtlety of modern sexism. I am sure that sexism in the 60’s was easier to spot, much like racism, because people were unselfconscious about it and used racial epithets. Since the onset of my adulthood, people are probably trained to use non-sexist language even when their behavior is iterated by sexism. This kind of superficial “progress” combined with my relative insensitivity to the issue probably explains my lack of noticing.
Sexism is like inflation to me. I think it exists and can even be a problem. Still, I only become aware of it when I read about it in the paper. I just never have the experience of shopping and thinking that prices have gone up. Likewise, I believe sexism exists and can be a problem, but I don’t really see it in action. I only just noticed inflation for the first time last year during the increase in gas prices. It would probably take sexism of equal obviousness to grab my attention.
I don’t often find myself being sexist. Probably this is as attributable to my above described insensitivity to the issue as it is to my actually being non-sexist.
I am not sure anyone has accused me personally of being sexist, at least not in a serious way, perhaps in a joking way after I had evinced joking sexism.
Do you think boys are more constrained by sexual stereotypes than girls?
Possibly, I am not sure. It depends on what is meant by “constrained.” It is possible that young boys have more rigorously enforced gender identity than girls. There is the term “tomboy” for example, used to describe girls who are boyish. The term tomboy doesn’t strike me as always intended as an insult in the way that a word like “sissy” would be if attached to a boy. I think that as people get older they have the chance to move beyond these stereotypes, if they want to. It is getting easier because our society is doing less and less to “constrain” adults these days. Still, some choices do take courage even today. There is still the issue of social approval, which does weigh on most people.
I think all stereotypes are declining, but the one’s for boys are declining more slowly because there is no “you go girl!” type movement encouraging boys to expand beyond the stereotypes like there is for girls.
Should men be babysitters, nannies, day care, nursery school, and grade school teachers?
If they want to do the job and someone wants to hire them, why not? Fear of child abuse could be one reason, but the incidence is so low regardless of gender that it doesn’t seem like a compelling reason to discriminate.
Do you identify yourself as a feminist or a masculist? Or do you consider yourself an egalitarian?Did you change your mind as you got older?
I suppose I would choose egalitarian. I think we need a single sense of life, a single moral code and a single politics that takes cognizance of both men and women and their views. Men and women are 99% the same, so it shouldn’t be so hard to develop one view that accommodates both.
Do you think men need a masculist movement? Is the idea of "feminism" at odds with the idea of "masculism"?
Among all the peoples of all the earth for its entire history there is one group, white men of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, that is most privileged, with white women of the same era close behind.
I would like to move beyond identity politics for the advantaged to a politics that encompassed the goals of the truly disadvantaged.
Men are doing fine and do not need a movement at this point. They need to complain a little less and count their blessings. Life is easier and better than at any prior time. The claptrap about how life is harder now than forty years ago is pure foolishness. Men today are freer than ever from both economic and social constraints. The fact that they have to deal with women as full blown human beings is nothing to complain about.
Do you think the US feminist movement succeeded? What battles still need to be fought? If you have grown children, do they believe they live in a postfeminist world, at least in the US.
I think that women in America are doing pretty well, which is probably partly attributable to the feminist movement, though not entirely of course. Women will always have some specific perspectives on issues and women in general may have some shared interests going forward. That is why I don’t foresee an entirely “post-feminist” future, but I don’t know that we should have that as a goal in any event. I’m quite able to co-exist with some extant feminism and don’t anxiously await its abolition.
How much sexism did you perceive in the 2008 primaries and elections? Was having a woman president important to you?
There did seem to be sexism in the elections of 2008. I didn’t notice it, of course. I read about it in the paper. Having a woman president was not important to me personally, but it was to my wife and I felt bad that it didn’t happen for her. I suppose I mostly want to see “feminist” milestones so that my wife can celebrate them. She attaches importance to them, so I do too, if only vicariously.
Any suggestions to help OS male writers overcome their fears about posting on sexism?
When men say they are “afraid” to post on sexism or feminism, I tend to regard their claims with great suspicion. What is stopping them now? Of all the “constraints” that a person can complain of, the fear of a “virtual dirty look” has to be among the weakest there is. I suspect that many men don’t want to post on sexism because the issue doesn’t interest them very much. Fear of posting is just an excuse to blow the issue off. If they do want to post and they are complaining of expected backlash, then they may have only half-assed ideas to share. They are afraid someone will call them on their ill-formed ideas on the subject.
If men do have well-formed and defended ideas on sexism and they want to post on the issue then there is nothing real stopping them. Nobody accuses you of being a ‘troll’ when it is your own post.
Bringing one’s ideas into a public forum does require some modicum of courage. Either you have that courage or you don’t.
If you have a partner or spouse, are they concerned with equality issues? How does that effect your day-to-day lives? Do you share housework and child care (if you have kids,)?
My wife is a very successful lawyer and now government official. She is not interested in equality issues as a political statement so much as she is interested in the real life enjoyment of equality herself.
I don’t know how that effects our daily lives. I’ve never been married to a fifties style housewife, so I can only guess what the differences might be.
Men are notorious for claiming that they do their fair share of the housework when they do much less than that. I’m therefore a little shy of claiming that the work is fairly split. Here is my best guess about the percentages of each type of work that I do:
Grocery Shopping: 60%
Trash/Cat litter/lawn: 98%
My wife is simply more ambitious and harder working at her job than I am. I’m happy to pick up the slack at home. It isn’t all that hard with only two people to feed and clean up after.
What books shaped your ideas on sexism, women's liberation, men's rights? What books do you love to read? Which women novelist is your favorite? What is her viewpoint on feminism and masculism?
I don’t know that any books had particular importance to me on the issue of sexism or gender politics.
I love reading books about ex-patriot Americans and British, especially those living in warmer climes. It is a fantasy of mine to follow in their footsteps.
My favorite woman novelist is still Ayn Rand, though I haven’t read any of her books in over fifteen years. I know, I know, Ayn Rand has her defects. Still, she was a woman of amazing accomplishment and she cared passionately about human rights, albeit her version of same. As for Rand’s shortcomings, well, quite often I hear criticisms of her that are completely inaccurate and unfair, expressed with the kind of certainty that comes from spending all one’s time preaching to the lefty converted. It is always a good idea to be circumspect when discussing a writer with whom you have only a passing acquaintance. This is true even when you are just repeating something your favorite sociology professor said about Ayn Rand. Just sayin’.
When Ayn Rand was interviewed for Playboy Magazine (she was interested to expand her audience to include its readership), she was asked her opinion of women’s lib. She said she believed in universal human rights. The interviewer asked if she felt that human rights applied to women to which she replied: “Certainly I think that women are human beings.” The foregoing is a half-remembered paraphrase, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it. That is pretty much where I stand also.