bell hooks first published her definition of feminism as, “…a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression,” within her book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Within Feminism is for Everybody, a book published by hooks ten years later, she expressed the following statement in regards to the role of men within feminist movement.
“A feminist vision which embraces feminist masculinity, which loves boys and men and demands on their behalf every right we desire for girls and women, can renew the American male. Feminist teaching teaches us all, especially, how to love justice and freedom in ways that foster and affirm life. Clearly we need new strategies, new theories, guides that will show us how to create a world where feminist masculinity thrives.”
Throughout the world, sexist socialization imparts young men with damaging ideals and norms in regards to “what it means to be a man.” Expressions such as, “boys will be boys,” “man up,” and “don’t be a girl,” present young folks with the damaging notion that gender is an unquestionable reality with only two options (men and women), that one of those options is most powerful and unapologetic (men), and that the power found within men/manhood comes from the subjugation of others (particularly the “opposite” gender). The reality is that gender is a social construct with a wide array of gender identities, within and beyond the gender binary of men/women and that individuals do not need to adhere to ideals of domination in order to identify as boys/men.
Within our curriculum presentations we stress that, “The gender stereotypes we hold, whether or not we are aware of them, affect the way we think about interactions between people with different genders. This can lead to expectations about how our partner or how we should act in relationship.”
Considering that the large majority of people who use violence within relationships are men, it is (and has been) crucial that we continue to deconstruct the limiting notions that have been presented to us in regards to gender; particularly what it means to be a man in our society. Although not all violence is perpetrated by men within heterosexual relationships, the power imbalance that continues to exist within our society in regards to gender makes it absolutely necessary that a critical deconstruction of gender and power act as the crux of our work to dismantle intimate partner violence.
Within Feminism is for Everybody, hooks also wrote:
“Patriarchal masculinity teaches men that their sense of self and identity, their reason for being, resides in their capacity to dominate others. To change this males must critique and challenge male domination of the planet, of less powerful men, of women and children. But they must also have a clear vision of what feminist masculinity looks like. How can you become what you cannot imagine? And that vision has yet to be made fully clear by feminist thinkers male or female.”
Join Peers Building Justice as we work together to gain a clearer vision of what feminist masculinity looks like and how to present this reality to young men and boys within our communities.