The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Response to the recent comments

1) I never said men don't control more executive positions and overstructure power. I said that that isn't the only form of power or control.
2) I have never denied a single fact that has been quoted or suggested about women being abused, under-compensated, denied the vote, or whatever. My only point has been that these statistics never take into account the factors that are to the detriment of men--like dying violent deaths.
3) Suzanne, was that link intended to be a gentle chide? If so, sure, I'm a man who talks about the way the world looks from my position. Like there are women who talk about the way it looks from theirs. I fail to see the difference.
4) I've listened to plenty of white people speak authoritatively about race relations. And every one knew black people, and none of them suggested blacks were less, or to blame for my circumstances. I had no problem. I never said I know more about women's lives than women do. I said that I seem to be considering the questions of men's lives more than they do. And that one cannot make a comparison--or come to conclusions about "who is in control" without factoring both in. I have the exact same right to discuss the male side of the issue that women have discussing the female side.
5) Show me the paper, or study, that attempts to create a hierarchy of human values accepted by people all over the world, at least half the respondants women. Then have people list where they think they are. My guess? Men have more money, political and military power. Women get to live longer, die more peacefully, spend more time with their families, and have more satisfying human relationships. My point is that when people think men are coming out ahead, they NEVER discuss both sides: they just give a list of the areas women have (admittedly real and important) problems in.
6) I can certainly start clipping specific comments from women or those commenting on women's issues that relate to the "men are running the world to the detriment of women" meme.
7) I've been in favor of every women's rights issue I know of, including aspects of affirmative action I don't support for black people. My only point is that I don't believe that men come out ahead--I think that they SEEM to if you buy into a male value structure. That that value structure is brain-washing to control young men, and that neither men OR women are in control of this game.
8) I've made equally controversial comments concerning race, especially the "black people are responsible for their lives" comment, which has triggered responses of "race traitor." In saying that men and women have created this world together, I seem to be treading on toes. In saying that the only way I'd believe that men were actually on top of this game is if they got more of what everyone wants--and they don't. They get more of SOME of what we as humans want. And women get more of others.
9) If women the world over thought their quality of life satisfaction was lower than men's, again I might agree that men were in control. But if men are in control, and women report satisfying lives in the same proportion as men...then where is this advantage? Only if you get hypnotized by looking at a few indices WAY up on Maslow's hierarchy, and ignore the lower-level, more basic stuff does this make sense to me.
If there are other studies that indicate that, on average, women report a lower level of life satisfaction, please show me.
10) Remember: quoting statistics that prove that women are bested by men in a variety of important indices is valuable, but not determinative. We would have to create some kind of system to measure all the advantages and disadvantags of being male and female, weight them against each other, and total up. I know of no one engaging in such a project. Do you? And if we don't have that information, then I have to agree that the women I've known who felt that "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" and other sayings that have to do with the comparative powers of men and women were right. I'm not ignoring them. I'm taking them seriously. Now I'm being told that if I look at men and women as being really, truly equal I'm being this typical condescending male. I honestly don't see that.
11) If at any time, in any way, I've ever suggested that women shouldn't go to any school they want, have any job they want, are in any way less intelligent than men, or worthy in any way...if I've implied that men have the right to hit or dominate women in any way, please point it out. I say that men have exactly the right to comment on male-female relations that women do--no more, and no less. And that women are going to tend to know more about what women's lives are, and men more about what men's lives are about. At no time did I say that what women are saying about their lives is factually wrong. I say only that they seem to omit data when they compare their lives to men's.
12) My basic point is that yes, men think they're running the world. And that they are wrong. No one is. Our biology, or God, or whatever, is running both games. If you buy into the illusion, it looks like men are sitting pretty. Until you add up the toll. At which point it is as impossible come to a useful conclusion as it is on the "are women more disadvantaged than black people" argument--you simply can't come to a conclusion without discounting someone's misery. And if men are in control...but things aren't any better for them...then excuse me, but I'm missing something here.
13) I think one of the problems is that people worry that what I'm saying might be used to justify abuse, or neglect. You know? You may be right, and if that's true I'm sorry. But the same is true of my saying that black people are responsible for the crime in their communities--true, they're not at fault, but they ARE responsible. As men are responsible for any behaviors that they instigate, even if those behaviors are triggered and motivated by social or biological forces beyond their conscious awareness.
14) If there is a feminist web site or article that DOES try to take the factors of male mortality and male-on-male violence into account in reference to the question of "who rules the world"--please tell me where it is. My only real point is that no one's really in control, no matter how much Men might like to think they are.

110 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Men have more money, political and military power. Women get to live longer, die more peacefully, spend more time with their families, and have more satisfying human relationships."

Claiming that this adds up to equal treatment is pretty condescending. You know, boiling down to ignoring the lowest-level, most basic stuff: "So what if your brother got more food, land, education, ability to protect himself from STDs, etc. [all of which can cost money] than you did? It's silly/foreign/masculine to want those, all you really need is love!"

"Our biology, or God, or whatever, is running both games."

Yeah - and that applies for *lots* of games, not just "both." There's the mating game, the trying to not get raped game, the earning a living game, the making friends game, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm also reminded of a conversation in _American Shaolin_ (which I'd cite directly except I returned it to the library a while ago) between the author and one of his classmates who grew up in rural China. In it, the author basically says it seems nicer there than in the materialistic West and his classmate reminds him that poverty sucks in ways spirituality doesn't compensate for.

suzanne said...

No Steve the link was not a chide
gentle or otherwise
I just thought it interesting
and since it is smething I have experienced
I thought it worth sharing

I agree that men also pay some negative prices
to live in the society/culture as it is currently structured
(the patriarchy)

as to women spending more time
with theuir families
as fate would have it
both of my sons
sopend more time with their children
(all girls) than the mothers do
one mother is a resident in anesthesiology and residents'
time is not their own
so elder son works full time
as a barbarian (comodities trader)
then picks up the girls, grocery shops, cooks, cleans house, reads stories, gets up in the night to calm night terrors or sit with the sick, et cetera
younger son is unemployed
and his woman (a practicing ob/gyn physician (on call and so forth0)

He provides the day care for their daughter (whilst studying to take the GRE so he can go back to school)

the elder one is the more macho of the two of them
and ALAS
fairly conservative
(people should do for themselves. PERIOD)
has a lot to do with how he got to where he is
and the atmosphere there at the Merc
and that so few people
outside his family - born into
and chosen - have done for him
mainly he got through extreme racist environments
and his cancer
on his own

I'm happy to say
they both are ecstatic over their daughters
and love spending time with them and nurturing them

it's clear to me
they both know
that "mothering'
is an all consuming, complex task

And they are both excellent at it

And while men are ostensibly
in control of wealth, politics,
you know, the Man's World
the patriarchy,
I certainly think
it isn't all guts and glory

And one of the things that bothers me about women who enter that world
is the extent to which they have to use the traditional masculine
means to get into it and make their way in it

seems to me that's not using the kinds of benefits
that women could bring
to make the running of the society/culture a more humane endeavor

"identification with the aggressor" means
no changes

men and women have different strengths
and weaknesses, some of them inherent in the physical differences
some of them cultural
in any case
we as a species
ought to be using the strengths of both
and using each other to shore up the weaknesses

I don't for a minute
think biology or god
is or needs to be referred to
in the matter of
whose "running the show"

Steven Barnes said...

"Claiming that this adds up to equal treatment is pretty condescending."

Not just condescending, but asinine. I didn't say equal treatment. I said that men don't have it better, that I pay attention when women say their lives are as satisfying as men's. You're the one ignoring the most basic stuff--the most basic stuff is death. And men die of almost all causes more often, including being killed by men.
I don't see how men are in control unless they take advantage of that by making lives of less pain and greater satisfaction. They get no greater satisfaction in life, according to the data I've seen. So yes, everything you say about the damage done to women is true. What you've not factored in is the damage done to men by the same genetic tendencies toward aggression--which is protective in one context, and destructive in others. My philosophy seeks to understand all human interactions as expressions of basic drives. If men had arranged things so that they lived longer, or got greater life satisfaction, I'd agree with you. But unless you think men are stupid, to be "in control" without actually getting greater benefits is a little crazy. So I say that men and women have DIFFERENT benefits from the current gender roles.
##
How about you take a group of people. Distribute genders, ages and nationalities evenly. Ask them to list the values they think are more important in life. Take the twenty most common answers, and ask them to evaluate their lives on the basis of the presence of those values.
If there is a group that consistently comes out on top, that group is the beneficiary of the current system. If the group that is the beneficiary isn't the one in control...that's pretty strange.
Since nobody is really getting the better of this (in my way of looking at things) I look elsewhere for answers.


My thought is that men would tend to get more of some things, women more of others.
Exactly how much money would you exchange time with your family for? Or a year of your life? Or the ability to love and receive love? Tell me ANY of the things men get are more important than these, and I can agree. Show me that the horrors that women face reduce their life expectancies below men's and you have another automatic "win." But without that, it is fair and appropriate to ask "what the hell is going on? Who is really in control?" I'm offering a perspective--not excusing violence or inequality.
##
My guess is that the answer would come down pretty close to that first data I came across (and I'd love to see anything that says otherwise, PLEASE find it for me): that women have the same level of life satisfaction. Less overt power, but more...what, health and intimacy? Longevity, less violent lives? Show me somewhere in the world that women have shorter life expectancies than men and I'll show you a country or state in complete collapse.
#
To hold the opinion that men and women are co-creaters and rulers of a game, or that that game runs both of them, is not condescending unless I took the position that I have more right to an opinion than a woman. I never said that. I said that I have as much right to comment on male-female relationships as a woman. She knows more about women. I know more about men. How exactly do I not have the right to an opinion about how these two interrelate? How does my opinion somehow diminish others?

Anonymous said...

Steve:
I am in 100% agreement with you on this one. My life as a man was no more my own than any woman's. For just the most trivial example I spent most of my adult life hating whoever invented the tie. I have a very sensitive neck, and wearing a tie after shaving was a torture, but for most of my working life a tie was required dress for my job. All I think your really saying is don't think the other person has it better till you've walked a mile in their shoes.

Marty S

Anonymous said...

"You're the one ignoring the most basic stuff--the most basic stuff is death."

As if the stuff it takes to not die isn't basic too?

Scott Masterton said...

I think what the disagreement boils down to is simply a definition of 'wealth'. Is wealth 'stuff': money, cars, businesses, political power? Or is wealth: love and relationships, family and longer life? The answer is both. It is a perception coupled with a gentle reminder of natures rule of perfect exchange; NOTHING is free. If I spend more energy and time with my family, there is less energy and time for business. If I focus my energy on business...if I set that up as my my most important goal, then I will eventually reach a point where I realize that I don't know my children that well.

There is a place of balance, but even that is not free.
Peace,
Scott.

Anonymous said...

This is disturbing.

Steve, you've been taken to task for not directly citing the works of individual feminists.

This has seemed a bit ironic to me, because your propositions almost exactly follow the work done by one kick-ass feminist: Susan Faludi, author of Backlash.

Following Backlash, she wrote an equally intense, well-researched, and important book entitled Stiffed, looking at the price paid by the overwhleming majority of individual men for our men-in-control mythos in a world where financial, political, and military power is the property of institutions.

Backlash retains its steady audience and teaching text. Stiffed splashed and vanished-- neither men nor women want to deal with the truth that men really aren't in control.

Steven Barnes said...

That's kinda my take. The problem here (to me) is that we're in a car careening down a mountain road, arguing about who's in control rather than realizing that the laws of physics are steering this damned thing. And if we want a better result, we'd better let the old argument go, and take the damned wheel. I'm just sayin'.

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