To the Editor:
Recently a disturbing pair of signs have been appearing in Mudd. One of these signs advertises a weekly Men's Gathering, setting the tone of this event by saying, "Manliness is...by its very nature destructive, emotionally damaging and socially harmful"; the other sign, masquerading as an advertisement for the same group says, "I'd rather complain about my privilege...instead of confronting and eradicating the institutionalized inequalities between genders." In its attempt to invalidate the Men's Gathering by painting its members as whining boys who seek merely to confirm each other's privilege, this sign and its author(s) are malevolently offensive, sexist and show a distinct ignorance of some of the issues of gender liberation and equality.
Oberlin has a tendency, based rightly upon history, to see men (to say nothing of white heterosexual men) as a central source of oppression in the world; shy, Western society itself is often viewed as one large gathering of men, even as many men right here at Oberlin are trying to understand historical forces of oppression and ways we can combat them. In light of our gender's track record, it's not surprising that the ideas of a men's group is quickly judged as an attempt to further oppress women and other marginalized communities. However, such simplistic logic, grouping "men" into a category with single mind and purpose(e.g. domination and power over others), and perpetuating the stereotype that men have no need of peer groups because they are incapable of feeling emotion is as essentializing as the mentality that oppresses women and others in the West and elsewhere, and based upon the men I've known, false. The author of the fake advertisement (assuming a singular) presumes that men, faced with the considerable challenges of feminism and multiculturalism, can react only by withdrawing into elite fraternities to draw up battle plans and ready our long phallic guns.
Western society has constructed images of masculinity as well as of femininity, to the point where the two are mutually dependent. To say that men, in order to right past transgressions, must now be disempowered is merely to reverse the male/female binary and perpetuate the division of communities. However, if women have been constructed as men's "other," then one way to liberate both genders is to deconstruct notions of maleness. In order to truly effect non-violent change, all parties must take a willing hand at examining which societal attitudes they have inherited and internalized, so that those attitudes may be confirmed and transformed. The Men's Gathering is not a beer-guzzling, misogynous fest, nor is it an attempt for men to claim our own victimology-and for the author of the offensive sign to assume so is to show a complete lack of faith in the students and community of Oberlin. In my opinion, the Men's Gathering is an opportunity for men to examine what it means to be male, and to show support for one another's continued attempts at self-redefinition in an effort to seek justice and help other disenfranchised communities, in which we will never be full-fledged members, gain voices.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 21; April 19, 1996
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