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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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25 Responses

  1. ballgame
    ballgame June 19, 2006 at 6:25 am |

    Patriarchy and narrow gender roles are bad for men, too. Thoughts?

    Well, firstly, it’s refreshing to see that acknowledged without the sneering sarcasm that often accompanies such an assertion at this site.

    My second thought is wondering how much some of these male vulnerabilities would hold up if the study were done in, say, France or Sweden. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of them — autism, suicide, impulsivity — were at least partially correlated with infantile trauma, i.e. circumcision.

  2. dharmadyke
    dharmadyke June 19, 2006 at 7:58 am |

    I predict a lengthy evolution-biology discussion with lengthy side forays into circumcision.

    Regarding the end question: “Patriarchy and narrow gender roles are bad for men, too. Thoughts?”

    My thoughts: Patriarchy and narrow gender roles work to create male beings who are mentally and emotionally ill. The circumscription of their emotional lives and emotional expression creates illness.

    We’re ruled by male hysterics! Emotions can only be expressed through the body, in physical terms. My male relatives are hypochondriacs who have panic attakcs. They are unable to express their emotions except in a literal physical vocabulary. Especially, nice liberal men who don’t want to be macho assholes, raging dudes. Instead of “I feel really angry and unhappy,” it comes out as “My heart is racing, I think I’m having a heart attack, take me to the hospital.” And, of course, emotional stress contributes to real physical illness.

    You can also ascribe all of your feelings to an initial wounding incidence that causes illness. Freud’s castration complex…hmm, oops, I’ve looped around.

    yrs, a dharmadyke

  3. The Happy Feminist
    The Happy Feminist June 19, 2006 at 8:51 am |

    Patriarchy and narrow gender roles are bad for men, too. Thoughts?

    Ballgame, I see this discussed on Feministe and on most of the other feminist blogs without sarcasm. Yet whenever we do so, you and others always say things to imply that it is unusual for feminists to acknowledge this. In fact, the concept that patriarchal mores have a negative impact on men is part and parcel of feminism.

  4. zuzu
    zuzu June 19, 2006 at 9:10 am | *

    Where have we ever written that with sneering sarcasm?

    He’s probably referring to the preemptive “yes, patriarchy hurts men, too, but we’re talking about women here, so please don’t talk about men” anti-troll measures we sometimes include.

    Not that they ever seem to work.

  5. piny
    piny June 19, 2006 at 9:29 am |

    He’s probably referring to the preemptive “yes, patriarchy hurts men, too, but we’re talking about women here, so please don’t talk about men” anti-troll measures we sometimes include.

    Not that they ever seem to work.

    Well, yeah. I mean, look at this little sidecar derail.

  6. Magis
    Magis June 19, 2006 at 9:36 am |

    I’ve often wondered why if certain roles are natural why we need to spend so much time forcing people into them?

  7. The Happy Feminist
    The Happy Feminist June 19, 2006 at 9:48 am |

    Oh Magis — how oh how I wish I had said that.

  8. TheGlimmering
    TheGlimmering June 19, 2006 at 9:54 am |

    Thank you, Magis! I recently endured a lengthy, irritating argument with my father (who brought it up every time I turned around) over my problems with sex color coding and sex segregated toys for babies. Apparently I am violating the social contract by refusing to stamp a pink vagina substitute on my arriving-in-October daughter, which constitutes being intensely rude, and society will punish me. Furthermore, I am single-handedly eradicating all specialization within the human race by taking measures to avoid training my daughter into a mold, which also makes me responsible for little boys growing up violent, rapists, or criminal. It is, of course, my duty to impose gender roles on my child because mine is the dominant will in the equation. And so on and so on and so on, apparently I’m responsible for little boys catching Teh Gay, myself and every other hairy legged woman like me. Argh, and pointing out what you just said only produced crocodile tears on his part.

  9. Dianne
    Dianne June 19, 2006 at 10:05 am |

    the author complains that the NIH spent more money on studies done only on women than studies done only on men. Which conveniently ignores the fact that up until very recently, most studies were done only or mostly on men, and researchers are now having to go back and re-examine how a lot of things affect women.

    Gah. I second this comment. Apart from studies on breast cancer (which also affects men, though less frequently) and a little spending on ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancer, most of this discrepency is indeed due to the need to study diseases in women that are already well characterized in men. For example, studies of the effects of cholesterol in women. Not only is it unnecessary to do such studies in men–we know what happens when men have high cholesterol and exactly which forms of cholesterol are worse in men–it would be unethical to subject men to the risks any study entails when the answer is already known. Sorry to be ranting on, but the argument that men are discriminated against because of NIH funding of female only studies is a particularly annoying one to me, because of its combination of ignorance and prejudice.

  10. Richard Aubrey
    Richard Aubrey June 19, 2006 at 11:09 am |

    Why do men force themselves to screw themselves up? I would think that the Bilderbergers, or is it the Patriachy, or whoever has all this power, would use it to live longer, not shorter lives. Healthier, not less healthy lives.
    In addition to being omnipotent, is the Patriarchy really, really stupid?

    The implicit assumption that male and female lifespans should be the same is assumed. Deviations from that are considered to indicate some shortfall someplace. I suggest we first investigate whether the lifespans have a natural reason to be the same. Or are we trying to do a Procrustean Bed thingy here?

    You may recall the horrid movie, “Clan of The Cave Bear”. In it, there was a hunting scene. A bunch of men had surrounded a large prey animal which seemed, from what I could see, to be ashaved musk ox. Something big and quick, anyway. They were threatening and distracting it with spears and then the quickest among them, Fast Eddie, stripped to his Speedo, and sprinted past the animal’s rear with his hamstringing knife. You can get a real edge on flint. And Auel’s homework, if not her writing, seems to have been right on the money. The hunting scene is, as far as we know, how it was done.

    Depending on how far back you consider “human”, we’ve spent north of 90% of our span on the planet as hunters. It has to have had some effect.

    One is that when you are closing the hunting circle, each man depends on the others. One screws up and there goes lunch, and lunch usually departs by running smack over one of the other hunters. You not only lose lunch, you lose hunting capability, until the guy recovers, presuming he’s not dead or permanently crippled. Could be the end of the band.

    A man cannot afford to take counsel of his woes in a situation like that. They absolutely must be forced down. Achy knees, emotional upheaval. None can be allowed to affect the performing of the role.

    That it costs in lifespan is just one of those things. If it were guaranteed to be unnecessary, I mean really guaranteed, maybe things could change.

    We live in a fat time. You may consider modern technological society fragile or resilient. We may be back to red in tooth and claw, or at least eighteenth-century style, sometime soon, or never. But the past is not gone.

    These days, men feel they must be prepared–and must prepare their sons–for such difficulties. I raised both my son and daughter to be about getting the job done. They have been remarkably successful. Interestingly, getting the job done seems to make various physical and mental and emotional health issues less frequent, easier to bear, and faster to heal.

    Normal people know how they feel when they get upset. It’s one more factor in the equation. Calling 911 isn’t a normal reaction.

  11. ballgame
    ballgame June 19, 2006 at 12:48 pm |

    First of all, I dashed off my comment before running to work, and after I did I felt a little bad about the Passive Aggressive 101 nature of my first sentence. Apologies for that, especially since Jill has been the least offensive at this site in this regard, in my impression.

    Having said that, I have to admit that I’m just blinking my eyes in disbelief at your questions, Jill & Happy. Are you actually unaware of how people who raise issues of how gender adversely affects males are frequently treated here and at Pandagon and IBTP? What is “PHMT” but sneering, encapsulated?

    *deep breath* OK, frankly I’d love to be able to vent more about this issue but that would be derailing. And yes, zuzu, I was pissed off at your pre-emptive barring of comments on the female circ thread but I DID respect it and as I recall you pretty much received complete compliance.

    But the issue of male circumcision is germane to this thread and I notice it has barely raised an eyebrow. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth about people in foreign lands who endure this horrific procedure (fully justified wailing and gnashing of teeth, lest there be any misunderstanding), but barely a blink at the millions of humans on the North American continent forced to undergo a milder version of said procedure. All because, apparently, they’re on the wrong team. Hell, I can’t even, ahem, bribe certain people to learn more about this issue.

    dharmadyke, I think you make a lot of excellent points. Is it not unreasonable to wonder if a group of people who’ve been trained to live life that way (because it sure as hell isn’t something one adopts spontaneously) are really enjoying a life of privilege? Is it not possible that women actually enjoy the feminine privilege of being allowed to live more authentically, have deeper and more genuine friendships, etc. (and consequently healthier lives)? Is there no contradiction between that idea and the way the concepts of “patriarchy” and “male privilege” are bandied about on this blog and the others I allude to?

  12. Julie
    Julie June 19, 2006 at 2:31 pm |

    I don’t understand how circumcision would lead to autism, developmental delays, etc… For instance, I am having a baby boy in a few weeks and my husband and I have been researching/debating the whole circumcision thing quite a bit and trying to come to an agreement because we have very different opinons on the procedure (he is very much for, I am against but not nearly as vehemently as he is for it). As part of my research, I talked to my doctor who said she numbs the penis with a numbing cream and then inserts a needle containing an anesthetic into the numbed area so that the baby can’t feel a thing, and nine times out of ten the baby sleeps through the whole thing. I can imagine if it were done unanesthetisized (I have NO idea how to spell that, forgive me) it could be a pretty trauma inducing thing, but done like that in a hospital setting doesn’t strike me as the type of trauma that could lead to autism. Plus, it offers no explanation as to why most circumsized boys don’t have autism, or why many girls (including one in my family) have autism. It also doesn’t explain why boys are 5 times more likely to suffer from these delays as girls, seeing as the circumcision rate in this country is about 60% to 40% non circumsized. That aside, I have heard that before. There are a lot of disorders that are more common in boys than girls and even though you have a slightly better chance at conceiving a boy, you have a higher chance of miscarriage/birth defects/stillbirth (all of which have nothing to do with circumcision), which is pretty scary when you are carrying a boy.

  13. Frederick
    Frederick June 19, 2006 at 2:35 pm |

    Our life expectancy is also five years or so less than women’s.

  14. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man June 19, 2006 at 2:57 pm |

    Sneering sarcasm?

    This site won me over when I dropped into the middle of a thread taking the piss out of chivalry, a concept which I’ve always regarded as a grand boondoggle. I seem to recall a few of the ladies here scorning the idea inherit to the concept that men’s lives are somehow less important.

  15. Dianne
    Dianne June 19, 2006 at 2:58 pm |

    Our life expectancy is also five years or so less than women’s

    True in most parts of the world, despite the fact that women generally receive inferior health care. See here, here, and here for three examples I found in about 5 minutes of researching gender and health care.

  16. Nomie
    Nomie June 19, 2006 at 3:21 pm |

    ballgame, a lot of the times people who bring up “patriarchy hurts men” are doing so in the context of actively seeking to devalue the ways in which it hurts women, or in trying to derail the conversation from a focus on women’s problems. MRAs are an excellent example, or the recent post about “men’s rights” advocates in divorce cases who veer towards utter misogyny and using the children as tools.

    Anyway. I find it hard to get incredibly worked up about male circumcision, in part because most of the people I know who’ve had it done were taking part in religious ritual (my circle of friends is overwhelmingly Jewish and tends to overshare). And also because when we’re comparing the loss of a small bit of extraneous skin at a time when the baby will consciously remember nothing to the removal of some to all external genitalia, impairment of normal biological processes, and often done without anesthetic while the old-enough-to-remember girl is awake and in pain… it’s like a person with a paper cut asking an amputee to understand their pain.

  17. ballgame
    ballgame June 19, 2006 at 8:01 pm |

    I don’t understand how circumcision would lead to autism, developmental delays, etc… It also doesn’t explain why boys are 5 times more likely to suffer from these delays as girls, seeing as the circumcision rate in this country is about 60% to 40% non circumsized.

    Valid questions, Julie. Think of circumcision as a toxic life event. We all endure varying numbers of such things, and we all have different capacities to recover from them. No one doubts any longer that smoking causes cancer, but not everyone who smokes will do so. And if you smoke and get a lot of chest x-rays, you’re almost certainly at a higher risk than if you experienced either alone. So if you’re genetically predisposed to autism, and you’re exposed to genital trauma, your risk goes up. Your brain recoils/shuts down and you withdraw at the precise moment when connecting is the most important psychological step to take. As a result, perhaps bonding with your parent (typically mother) becomes problematic and incomplete, with all of the resultant emotional & developmental complications. Fortunately, most boys recover to a greater or lesser extent, but for a certain percentage it has truly life-altering consequences.

    I’m engaging in speculation here, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable speculation and I’m not alone. I’ve can’t recommend Rosemary Romberg’s out-of-print but readily available Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma highly enough. It’s thoroughly researched, well-written and extremely humane. She also has an informative if somewhat pedestrian web site.

    (To be clear, btw, I’m not claiming that circumcision causes the entire difference between boys and girls in these issues. I know that male zygotes are slightly more fragile than female ones. But I would be shocked if circumcision didn’t account for a significant portion of the difference.)

    As for anaesthesia, Julie, you and your baby to be are fortunate that your doctor gives the issue such serious thought. The overwhelming majority of American men alive today were circumcised without it.

    hard to get worked up … a small bit of extraneous skin … the baby will consciously remember nothing … it’s like a person with a paper cut asking an amputee to understand their pain.

    I have to believe you use that belittling analogy because you simply don’t know what male circumcision actually involves, Nomie. To me the difference between female and male circumcision is like the difference between losing a hand and losing a couple of fingers. The former is clearly more serious, but the latter is no picnic. I am aware of no study that establishes that infantile or childhood trauma leaves no lasting psychic scars. I’d love a citation if you do. The only study I’m aware of that tried to investigate pain and male circumcision was halted because the doctors involved realized they could no longer continue to perform the procedure in good conscience without anaesthesia.

    As to the foreskin being “extraneous”, well, that isn’t the adjective I would choose for the highly sensitive, nerve-rich tissue which protects one of the most psychologically important parts of a man’s body and keeps the skin of the underlying glans from drying, thickening and becoming much less sensitive (which is what happens to all circumcised penile heads).

    As to “not getting worked up” about it, Nomie, that’s something I react strongly to. No one has argued that male circumcision is just as bad as female circumcision, but what if there were a version of female circumcision performed in the U.S. that was “only” as bad as male circumcision? You know, permanently disfiguring, “merely” reduced genital sensitivity by 20-25%, performed on infants, often without anaesthesia. Feminists would be up in arms about this issue, and rightly so. I find the absence of such a reaction amongst a group of avowedly thoughtful, questioning, progressive people because the victims were different to be, well, disappointing would be an understatement.

    *sigh*

    Anyway, thanks, Z, P, J, for permitting my somewhat lengthy rant.

  18. Dianne
    Dianne June 19, 2006 at 9:03 pm |

    So if you’re genetically predisposed to autism, and you’re exposed to genital trauma, your risk goes up.

    Got any evidence to back that claim up? I’m not a fan of circumcision, but I find that claim hard to believe.

  19. ballgame
    ballgame June 19, 2006 at 10:10 pm |

    Dianne: Fair question, and the answer is “no.” As I tried to make clear a few sentences later, I was speculating about how such a correlation might occur.

  20. Nomie
    Nomie June 20, 2006 at 8:12 am |

    ballgame, we obviously have widely differing views on this, and I’m not going to get into this further. However, as far as my language: I was echoing your own in this quote –

    But the issue of male circumcision is germane to this thread and I notice it has barely raised an eyebrow. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth about people in foreign lands who endure this horrific procedure (fully justified wailing and gnashing of teeth, lest there be any misunderstanding), but barely a blink at the millions of humans on the North American continent forced to undergo a milder version of said procedure. All because, apparently, they’re on the wrong team. Hell, I can’t even, ahem, bribe certain people to learn more about this issue.

    You set the terms, not me.

  21. zuzu
    zuzu June 20, 2006 at 9:11 am | *

    So.

    How did we get from the differing slants given the prior assumption of female weakness and the new evidence that it’s actually males who are weaker to the subject of male circumcision?

    Nice derail there, ballgame. Since you readily admit that you have no actual evidence to back up your claims, why don’t we just stick to the topic of the post. Which is just chock-full of good stuff to discuss that doesn’t involve circumcision. Hmm?

  22. ballgame
    ballgame June 20, 2006 at 7:46 pm |

    zuzu: Perhaps I should have been more nuanced in my response to Dianne, so let me try again. The idea that it is male circumcision which creates the differential rates of developmental problems between girls and boys is speculative. The idea that these differentials are unrelated to male circumcision is also speculative. Or, to put it another way, the differentials themselves are evidence for circumcision having the impact I suggest, but they are not definitive evidence, since it is conceivable that they could be entirely due to the gender factor.

    The differentials are highly correlated with a) being male, and b) the trauma of infantile circumcision. Scientifically, it would be irresponsible to focus on one correlate, and ignore the other.

    The rest of my posts were facts. It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of American men alive today were circumcised without anaesthesia. It is a fact that the Canadian study was halted because the doctors thought the issue was so serious they couldn’t continue to circumcise without anaesthesia. It is a fact that the foreskin is itself rich in nerve endings, and that the glans dries up and its skin thickens and desensitizes in the absence of this important covering.

    I honestly don’t see how any of this is OT.

    Jill: While we apparently don’t agree on how serious male circumcision really is, I’m nonetheless glad you’ll be keeping your future sons intact.

  23. zuzu
    zuzu June 20, 2006 at 8:09 pm | *

    It’s OT, ballgame, because the post and the article had to do with genetic differences between boys and girls, not differences between boys and other boys attributable to nongenetic causes.

    So it’s not relevant, and is therefore a derail. After derail comes trolling. I suggest you not go that way.

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