By Karla Mantilla
An issue on men? In off our backs? Why?
Well, if we want to destroy patriarchy, we ultimately have to change masculinity and men. Changing women and the lives of women is essential work, but frankly, women are not the main source of the problems of patriarchy. Sure women collude and go along with patriarchy in significant ways, but patriarchy begins—and will only end—with men.
This issue is by and for women to take stock of where we are and what we think about men after decades of feminism. We ask whether significant progress has been made, or whether men have just changed tactics? Has patriarchy lessened at all, or has it just shifted ground? It is true that many changes have occurred among men since the advent of the second wave of feminism in the 1970s. Sometimes it is hard to grasp how many changes have occurred in the past 30 to 40 years, and many young women don’t realize how different men as a whole are from the way they used to be. In the 1950s, men almost never cared for babies, cooked dinner or had women for bosses. The employment section in newspapers (remember job searches before the internet?) listed jobs for women and men separately.
These days, it is no longer a complete anomaly for a man to change a diaper; you can see men dropping off or picking up their kids from day care; men can even be found taking babies on an outing—without the baby’s mother. It doesn’t seem so strange anymore to see a man do housework or even cook dinner. Men are pretty used to the idea of women having jobs, and many men have women bosses and handle it just fine. Men are even able to express a little personal flair—witness “metrosexuals” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”—these trends could never have occurred in 1965!
So have we come a long way after all? Well, yes, but even in the areas where progress has been made, there are still vast inequities to be addressed. For example, although much is made of men’s increased contributions in the domestic sphere, a recent study found American men only do about 16 hours of housework a week, up from 12 hours a week in 1965, while women do about 27 hours a week.1 In the political sphere, the U.S. Congress is only 14% women—less than the governments of China, Namibia, Mexico Argentina, Vietnam, and New Zealand, among others.2 As far as economics goes, women earn only 76% of the wages men get, up from 59% in the 1970s.3 Further, only 16 percent of corporate officers are women, and only eight Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Men still commit nearly all the violence around the world, with 85% to nearly 100% of serious assaults committed by men4, depending on the country; over 96% of single-offender rapes or sexual assaults in the U.S. are committed by men.5 Furthermore, pornography is a booming business, earning an estimated $57 billion worldwide with $12 billion of that in the U.S.6, and sex trafficking and sex tourism are increasing dramatically across the world. All in all, things still look pretty damn bad for women. There is a long way to go before we see the world that feminists envision: where women and men share equally in economic, political, and interpersonal realms; where rape is unthinkable; where all people have homes, food, and health care; where women are not objectified in pornography; where human beings are not enslaved, assaulted or murdered; where war is a thing of the past.
While there is much noise about “deconstructing gender” in academia and in various activist movements, there is not much being done that specifically addresses masculinity and male violence. If we want to destroy patriarchy, then masculinity, male power, and male violence have to be deconstructed—and then disarmed. We cannot shrink from the fact that it is men who perpetuate the violence that undergirds patriarchy, so it is ultimately men who will have to change.
1 According to a study by the Institute for Social Research (ISR) 2 The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World by Joni Seager Penguin Group: New York, NY 2003. 3 www.pay-equity.org/ 4 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, http://w3.unece.org/stat/gender.asp 5 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvus0202.pdf 6 www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html