Social Question

Carly's avatar

Should men approach feminist studies differently than women, and if so, why?

Asked by Carly (4555points) April 3rd, 2011
46 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

I’m taking a feminist studies class right now with a large majority of women. There are only about 5 men out of a total of 25 students, but they seem shy to express their opinions in class. To me it seems like they don’t want to intrude on the stronger opinions of some of the very passionate women in the class, and being that it is a feminist studies class, this might seem to them like that’s the way they should act in this particular environment.

I think everyone has a right to their own opinion, but in this situation it feels like gender really does seem to matter. Could it be that the guys in my class just need to get over being self-conscious about what they have to say, or do you think men’s voices should be more distant in a class focused on the study of feminist culture?

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JilltheTooth's avatar

I think men’s voices should be an important component of this class, provided everyone remains civil. Assuming the men are there to learn stuff and not just meet chicks I mean really, if they’re there for that they should just check out of the gene pool right now! ;-) then the perspective of the other side (so to speak) would provide some valuable insights.

flutherother's avatar

I think its good that you have some guys in the class and I think you should encourage them to give their views. Being outnumbered 5 to 1 can be a bit intimidating especially if some of the majority are very strong characters with strong views.

6rant6's avatar

1. They could be “cultural anthropologists,” watching the doings of a foreign tribe. Interfering would be taboo.

2. They could be gender dysmorphic and feel unqualified to answer as a man or woman.

3. They could be collecting information to ridicule women with.

4. They cold be taking the class in satisfaction of a probation requirement – legal or romantic – and aren’t really interested in the topic.

5. Maybe they are afraid of the more vocal participants.

jerv's avatar

They should approach it as if it were a minefield.

Even my wife was kind of scared by some of the radical feminists in the Womens Studies classes she’s taken, and it probably would’ve been far worse if she had been a guy. So I think that a lot of it depends on whether the 20 women in that class are “Feminazis” just looking for a fight, or merely women taking a class.

Gender shouldn’t matter, but when it comes to something like this, it often does. It would be nice if y’all could be just 25 students, but realistically, I don’t see that happening.

bob_'s avatar

Isn’t the point of feminism that men and women are equal?

jerv's avatar

@bob_ In an ideal world, yes. This world is not ideal :(

Ladymia69's avatar

@jerv C’mon, don’t use words that have “nazi” tacked on the end of them. That’s hyperbole. Do you know what the nazis did?

jerv's avatar

@ladymia69 The type of person that earns that moniker is at the extreme end of what you could call “passionate”. Maybe it is a little strong a word for those that merely want to rewrite the English language because they are offended by the sexist name given to the utility access hatches you see in the roads (a.k.a. “Manholes”) as opposed to exterminate everybody that has a Y-chromosome, but it is a commonly used moniker to describe a certain radical element, and I don’t feel like going over everything I say with a fine-toothed comb when there is a colloquial word I can use to convey a certain concept.

SavoirFaire's avatar

They should have the right to speak their mind, and strictly speaking they do have the right. They feel intimidated? They feel outnumbered? They feel like their opinion might be drowned out by a majority that couldn’t care less?

Gee, sounds like they might get a tiny fraction of what it has been like to live as a woman in various cultures throughout history. Might be educational.

Ladymia69's avatar

@jerv (((sigh))) Oh, alright.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@jerv Yes, there are some feminazis. But they’re a) hardly the majority of the movement, and it’s very unlikely that 100% of female students would be that extreme and b) much more common in 2nd wave ideological circles, not 3rd wave or general circles. So maybe classes your wife took awhile back shouldn’t be representative of all classes, now.

jerv's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs I agree entirely. I merely mention them as a possibility that should be watched out for. The odds are that there probably won’t be anybody that radical in a particular class, but there is enough of a difference between “probably” and “definitely” to warrant caution.

Uberwench's avatar

@jerv “Feminazi” is not a colloquial word that picks out a subset of feminists. It is a generality used to disparage the whole movement. In that regard, it’s more like “nigger.” A caricature that everyone gets swept into even while people say “oh, but of course not everyone’s like that.” Do you feel like it’s going over everything you say with a fine-toothed comb to not use that word? Or do you simply not have it in your vocabulary?

jerv's avatar

@Uberwench I have no interest in derailing this into a debate over etymology or nit-picking the definition of “colloquial”. I will say that that there are things I’ve seen/heard a lot that you probably haven’t, so “common” is relative, as is the degree of offense that some words carry.

And yes, I do consider it that way because it is easy to misjudge certain things and have something that wasn’t meant to cause any offense blow up in my face, just as this thread has.

BTW, I think I have handily proven my point about approaching certain things as though they were a minefield.

Now, can we ignore me and get back to the question?

Uberwench's avatar

@jerv It’s not your definition of colloquial that is the problem, but your interpretation of “feminazi.” It’s not used the way you think it is. Even your own use suggests—perhaps unintentionally—a contrast between feminists and “normal” (implicitly non-feminist) women. It’s a deep-rooted prejudice, and it’s worth pointing out wherever it occurs.

And I don’t think this thread is a minefield just because it raised some disagreements and got you corrected on something. You’re still treating this as if it’s somehow a special issue, despite the fact that similar disagreements come up all the time regarding other issues that aren’t treated as minefields. Another prejudice.

BarnacleBill's avatar

“Feminazi” is a word coined by Rush Limbaugh to describe a small group of radical feminist women in the 1990’s.

WasCy's avatar

I’m always bemused when I get into discussions with feminist friends and acquaintances who profess to know “what men think”. If they discuss “what men do”, then it could be a good and valid discussion, but when they think they know “what men think” – when we hardly know that ourselves, sometimes – then they’re going to be wrong as often as not.

So depending on the topics in the class and the way the discussions go, I’d either be jumping in myself to skewer the silly arguments (and I’m not just saying that because it would be women making the arguments), or sitting back to learn something. I learn a lot right here in Fluther, for example, just by listening / reading sometimes. But when anyone thinks they can describe my thought processes, or those of other men (or women), then I know they’re going to get a comeuppance.

6rant6's avatar

@BarnacleBill Even Limbaugh doesn’t say he coined the word. And I kind of take his assignment of “credit” to a friend about as reliable as… well everything else he says.

jerv's avatar

@BarnacleBill I heard it a bit before then, so I have to go with @6rant6 here.

@Uberwench There is a spectrum, and that is one end of it. Not all Muslims are terrorists or Jihadists either (they are a small minority) but that does not mean that extremist elements don’t exist. And the contrast was intentional; not all feminists are radical extremists, and I don’t want to disparage the moderate ones or lump them in with that crowd.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] I realize this is in Social, but could we get back to the original question, please? Thanks!

lifeflame's avatar

I don’t think anyone should feel silenced in the class; academia should be a place for free exchange. But I think the question, “should men approach feminist studies differently…” I think biologically and culturally they have a different perspective, so obviously they will.

Having said this, I think empathy, experience and being able to think critically go a long way. For example, if the experience of childbirth is important, I would trust a conversation with a man who has actually been with his wife while she was in labour, more than a woman who has never been in the delivery room (so don’t ask me… my head is just stuffed with an imaginary scenarios from movies)

Similarly, if we are talking about oppression, I also think it is possible for a man who has been discriminated against (e.g, because of skin colour, social background, etc) to make this emotional leap.

I also believe that ideas, such as a worldview that the world would be a more peaceful place if women were in power can and should be discussed by both men and women objectively.

It’s very important to have voices from outside the group, otherwise the whole field of study becomes very self-enclosed. In order for these divisions to break down, we need men taking feminist studies, white people taking Black studies, and Asians to take Latin American studies…

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WasCy Obviously, I do not know your feminist friends and acquaintances. I do know my own, however, and I’ve never heard one of them profess to know “what men think.” I’ve heard them discuss what social scientists have shown to be common patterns of thought among men, and I’ve seen men foolishly jump in and say “I’m not like that!” as if a single counterexample could disprove what was only put forth as a statistical likelihood, but I’ve never had a feminist friend tell me “what men think.”

As for the class topics, my experience suggests they won’t be about men too often—because women’s studies classes tend to be about, well, women. This isn’t to say men won’t come into the picture, of course, or that no one will talk about things like patriarchy and so forth. But I often think people have a mistaken notion of what happens in classes like these.

I’ll never forget the woman who lectured me for ten solid minutes at a bus stop about what college philosophy courses are like. She didn’t even know that I studied/taught philosophy. She just wanted to rant about it. Her impression was so wrong it would have been comical if it hadn’t been so sad.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv I don’t see anywhere that @Uberwench denied that there is an extremist element within feminism. What she said—and quite correctly—is that the term “feminazi” is typically used to caricature the entire group and not as a term for the fringe feminists. Maybe you were unaware of that, and maybe you intended to use it differently, but you were still incorrect.

As for your statement about the contrast you made being intentional, I’m guessing you did not read @Uberwench‘s comment very thoroughly. The contrast she finds to be operative in your comment is between “feminazis” and “normal women.” This implies—intentionally or not—that all feminists are feminazis and that all normal women are non-feminists (“merely women taking a class”). What you’ve said since suggests that you did not intend that contrast, so I wouldn’t take credit for it if I were you.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Sorry to post three times in a row, but it seems like it would also be worthwhile to keep in mind that terms like “liberal feminism” or “radical feminism” have very technical, academic definitions. Radical feminism, for instance, is not merely a form of feminism that is “radical” in the colloquial sense. Indeed, when many people use the term “radical feminism” they seem to be talking about separatist feminism or something like it. Particularly since we’re discussing how to approach feminism in an academic setting, not forgetting these academic definitions would be useful.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@SavoirFaire So then maybe it would help if you posted the technical, academic definitions

SavoirFaire's avatar

Well, I’m mostly thinking that people shouldn’t use terms that they don’t understand. But many of the distinctions can be found here. There’s also this for those who would like to go even deeper into it.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

Being a stay at home mom, I would think more than twice about enrolling in a feminist studies class due to my preconceived idea of how I think my choices would be ‘welcomed’ by the class during any discussions. I can, therefore, see how men would just try to keep their head down during the class. Should they need to? No, it should actually be considered a step forward that men even want to take the class. It can also be helpful sometimes (in the interest of knowledge) to have an opinion from outside of a group as to how the group is viewed (as no man can truly be a feminist.)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@optimisticpessimist Men can be feminists. Feminism is an ideology, not a set of genitals.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Yes, thank you, I read the list of definitions that @SavoirFaire provided.

jerv's avatar

@optimisticpessimist Thank you! While I am with @MyNewtBoobs in that men can be feminists, I appreciate someone else that can see why a man would try to keep a low profile, or possibly not even take the course. Trust me, it’s no fun being a lightning rod, or having a big bullseye hanging on your chest.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I agree a man can believe in and support feminist ideals. I do not think men would be truly accepted by the more radical or extreme (or whatever you want to call it) feminist ideology groups. I am sure things have changed since this was even an issue that crossed my mind on any regular basis. I believe in equality for all people regardless of gender or ethnicity so I do not ‘support’ any particular ideology, unless there is a name for that one.

bkcunningham's avatar

What is exactly is a feminist studies class? You get college credit? I found a website about feminist studies and it seems to be corporation, white and man “bashing” (I’m sure there’s a better word.) Can someone explain the purpose of the class and what it really teaches?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@bkcunningham Can you point me to the corporation, white, and man bashing part please? I’m not seeing it on the page you linked to.

Brian1946's avatar


I don’t anything in the FS History on the first page bashing whites, males, or corporations either.

bkcunningham's avatar

Under “Current Issues” along the left column. This is just the preface “The articles in this special issue on Sex and Surveillance explore the myriad ways in which states, corporations, and other institutions have sought to define, constrain, and exploit sexual expression and gender deviance. In the cases discussed here–for example the Boeing Corpora­tion’s policy on gendered attire, the regulation of male homosexuality in cold war Germany, the medicalization of asexuality, or the ideological policing of “safe spaces” at an unnamed Midwest college campus and at feminist gatherings in the United Kingdom–sexuality raises multiple anxieties and becomes an instrument for the advancement of other agendas. Whether that other agenda is corporate profits, as in the case of the Boeing Corporation, a “healthy” nation, as in the case of postwar Germany, or white privilege, as in the case of the Midwest campus, the location of sexuality at the intersection of private experience and public life has made it both vulnerable and extraordinarily resilient in the face of social, legal, and economic attempts at control. {READ MORE as PDF }”

Also, in “Forthcoming” under “Issues”: Gender/Racial Realness: Examining the Gender System in Ballroom Culture

Seriously? (My comment. Not part of the Issue.)

Just look through the website.

So what is the purpose of the class and what does it teach? I’m not ripping it, just curious.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@bkcunningham Would you mind rephrasing your question, please? I’m afraid my morning caffeine is only about half kicked-in.

bkcunningham's avatar

Just for you @MyNewtBoobs since your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. ; ) If I were just dropped on this planet and decided to take this class but had no idea what the class would be about or what I could expect to learn or gain from the class in the way of knowledge; how would you describe the class to me?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@bkcunningham Well, the one offered at my school has this description:

This course introduces the discipline of women’s studies, the historical development of feminist thought, and the social, economic, and technological factors which have led to changing roles for women throughout the world. The course also focuses analysis on race and class with particular attention to women of color and non-Western women cross-culturally.

bkcunningham's avatar

So what is feminist thought? I understand the historical development, the social, economic and technological factors involving women.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@bkcunningham That would be feminist theory. So take, for instance, the idea that pornography is inherently degrading women. Feminist thought/theory would be fleshing that out – why is it degrading women? Is there one specific part that could be eliminated, and then it would not be degrading women? Is one pornographic picture degrading to all women, or just the woman in the picture, or secret option 3? If it is inherently degrading women, is it then also inherently degrading men? Where would transgendered people fit into all this?

bkcunningham's avatar

Well, I can see your caffeine has reached its optimal level. Thank you very much. Great answer.

bkcunningham's avatar

So, now to answer the original question. Yes, men should approach the course differently. They should be prepared to answer for all the stupid things they have done throughout history, be prepared to cower under a chair or applaud female accomplishments with a pinkie held high. JK

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’d like to suggest that the first thing to pop up in Google is not always the best resource for figuring out what something is. Several of my students did that when studying for a quiz recently and were shocked to learn that the internet sources need some amount of foreknowledge.

Carly's avatar

@bkcunningham I don’t know about other Feminist classes, but mine is studying the history of the evolution of changes of feminism. It focuses a lot on how women’s roles in society have changed. We’re going all the way back to biblical times and ending with women’s rights changes in the 19th and 20th century.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@Carly Out of curiosity, are you also studying how different cultures along the way have had different views on the rights and roles of women?

Carly's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes! Later in the quarter will be talking about African, Asian and European trends throughout time as well. Its only the second week of the term, so I’m not sure how in depth we’ll get, but there’s hints in our syllabus that mention we’ll be talking about those perspectives, too. :)

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