Thursday, April 19, 2018

Brad Futurist Guy on the recent Bill Hybels situation as a starting point for discussing men who endorse feminist or egalitarian views on paper but who may use them for other ends

We'll start this post by way of an oblique introduction.
For a certain kind of person – highly educated, often living in New York, often Jewish – with certain values and tastes, Allen’s most clearly autobiographical films from the 1970s and 1980s define a lifestyle, a sensibility, and, most vexing, a script for adult relationships to follow. They are in the DNA of every significant romantic comedy of the past 40 years, and in the real lives both reflected and informed by those comedies. And for many non-observant American Jews, they form (along with Seinfeld reruns and Philip Roth novels, both topics for other essays) a kind of secular Talmud.

For some American men, the cultural role models are obvious – the athlete, the soldier, the action hero, the real estate tycoon. For others, maybe especially those of us who attended liberal arts colleges and live in trendy neighborhoods and eke out precarious creative class existences, a different set of archetypes is available. The men of critically acclaimed romantic comedies and sitcoms are our most popular fictional guides for how to behave around women. All of them owe a debt to Allen. [emphasis added]

Maybe you are this second kind of man, or you’re friends with him, or you’ve dated him. As an archetype, he is funny and self-deprecating, intelligent and witty, neurotic and vulnerable, gentle and non-threatening, awkward and sexually frank. If he’s often rude or irritating or pretentious, he’s also genuinely interested in and engaged with women. Sometimes, the interest is motivated by kindness, empathy, and respect. Other times, it’s a mask for something more sinister.

Renouncing Woody Allen is painful for many of us not just because we enjoy his work, but because it feels like renouncing a part of ourselves. It also feels cheap, because there’s no point in renouncing him if we can’t also renounce the part of us that finds his characters relatable. We need to take a closer look at the films that taught us to be this way, and to consider what else they taught us.
If it has turned out that a man to whom many looked for the cultural script of what being "grown up" is supposed to look like has some vices, the crisis is not necessarily that Woody Allen is Woody Allen, there's a sense in which the crisis is that so many turned to and looked to Woody Allen as the healthier or more realistic conception of masculinity for a whole range of middle to upper class white males who did not, could not, or did not and could not desire to conform to other cultural scripts of masculinity they believed were available or endorsed within their cultural time and place. 

It's with this in mind, that some of the men who presented themselves implicitly and explicitly as having the healthier way to relate to women turn out to have practiced something altogether contrasting in their personal lives that we can turn to something Brad posted at Futurist Guy.
in connecting #ChurchToo with the broader #MeToo movement, we’ve already had some stark examples of men who present themselves as anti-sexism, pro-feminist, proto-egalitarian — and yet end up with credible accusations of their serial sexual abuse and/or harassment of women. Here are two examples that became notorious in their communities, the first from the entertainment field — Joss Whedon, the second from the skeptics/scientists author-lecture circuit — Lawrence Krauss.
I won’t develop these in depth. The articles are extensive enough that important patterns are evident, hopefully, and the excerpts share the set-ups for key issues I believe we need to consider in the Christian community.
Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me.
Despite understanding, on some level, that what he was doing was wrong, he never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals, while at the same time, taking away my right to make choices for my life and my body based on the truth. He deceived me for 15 years, so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women’s rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with. But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist. (emphasis added)
Lawrence Krauss is a famous atheist and liberal crusader — and, in certain whisper networks, a well-known problem. With women coming forward alleging sexual harassment, will his “skeptic” fanbase believe the evidence?
He is politically liberal, decrying sexism, racism, and “the fear of people who are different,” and is a vocal critic of Donald Trump. …
And in his private life, according to a number of women in his orbit, Krauss exhibits some of the sexist behavior that he denounces in public. Now that these accusations are coming out in the open, some women have doubts that the skeptics will acknowledge the body of evidence about his behavior, and confront their own preconceived beliefs. (emphasis added)
Without a doubt one of the dumbest, smarmiest and self-congratulatory retorts I've ever read on the internet was Joss Whedon's claim that the reason he was still writing strong female characters was because journalists kept asking him questions about why he wrote those sorts of characters.  having concluded over the last twenty-five years that Joss Whedon writes variations of two or three characters that are all in some way just Joss Whedon, and that he's benefited from writing dialogue for actresses who are significantly more inventive and creative with that dialogue than he could be, I just stopped seeing he point of giving Joss Whedon any credit for Allison Hannigan figured out she could do with Willow's lines.  Whedon has been able to bask in the glow of some funny scenes that are arguably the result of Hannigan and other actresses making the scenes funny.  Whedon's writing can often seem to reflect a man who is convinced the wit comes from him and not the comedic timing of his collaborators.   But digression is done there.
Whedon, if what his ex-wife has alleged is true, may have simply used the stance of feminism to get things he wanted from women.  South Park in typically brutal South Park form, ran with a punchline that while PC Principle is genuinely concerned about the actual principles of political correctness his various followers and hangers-on among the bros are only apparently in the PC game because it lets them have more sex with women who are won over by PC stances.  PC Principle discovers this late in the first season in which he's introduced and he's mortified.  There are folks for whom the principle really is the thing and those for whom the principle is a useful tool in the quest for other social interests.
As we looked briefly at the case of Sherman Alexie, he's another guy who, conspicuously, said in an interview last year with NPR that he felt he was told stories about his ancestry so that he would not treat women the way so many other people on the reservation had.  The trouble turned out to be that, well, it's possible that however sincere Alexie was about that stuff, a perceived gap between stated ideals and patterns of conduct was troubling to some people, quite a few.
The most dangerous thing at this point would be to assume that ideological eam association tells us anything about how people will treat people.  The Bill Hybels situation is not exactly something I've been paying close attention to but Brad's blogging touches on the possibility that there are some men who embrace or endorse egatliarian ideals who are doing so not so much because they embrace that as a primary goal but because it's ... how do we put this, a secondarily valuable element in other pursuits.   Corresponding controversies in the arts world are revealing that if power and privilege are the base line from which harassment occurs women as well as men are being named as perpetrators.  That free thinkers and secularist are also emerging suggests that neither the secularist nor the religious guru is necessarily any different. 
If the secular and religious progressives and the religious right have anything in common it may only be that their celebrities seem to have convinced themselves and their respective fanclubs that they are exempt from even the possibility of mistreating women based on professed ideologies alone.  Surely by now we've seen that's a spurious assertion across the religious, economic and political spectrums. 
But none of what's transpired in the last two years will convince those partisans who are convinced their ideology in and of itself will preclude these things from happening that it could be otherwise.


Cal of Chelcice said...

Even Julian Assange came out and posted about the phenomenon: feminism is an attempt by beta-males to try to get some action, and use feminist rhetoric to shield themselves.

But it reminds me that it was not so long ago when there was a cascade of laughter and criticism about Mike Pence not wanting to meet other women in private unless his wife was present. Pence is an evil cog in the machine, but no one seems to be sneering any more! The unrelenting assault upon all forms of sex segregation has quite a bloody trail. For some, maybe these are necessary bodies on way to sex integration, where men and women can work together. For others, maybe it's a sign that no matter how much indoctrination, ideology, and rhetoric, men and women will become attracted to each other, and those with a greater power differential will use it to get what they want.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I have seen that proposal about why men adopt feminism a few places. Whether that's what feminists themselves conceive as the aim of feminism is another matter.

One of the more high profile women writers in American in the last half century who has explicitly rejected feminism as a category of thought that has ever even interested her has been Joan Didion. About fifty years ago Joan Didion wrote that the women's movement was no longer a cause but a symptom, and what she regarded it as a symptom of was that American women were probably at loggerheads with the reality that when you're a grown-up the opportunity costs and social responsibilities of having an adult sex life had become signs of what feminists called a class war in which women, who constituted no less than half the human population and probably more, were construed to be an oppressed minority.

She pointed out that the dreams of the feminists who said they wanted to go to New York and be a painter or a sculptor, for instance, aren't the dreams that figure prominently in the minds and lives of consenting adults but that they figured prominently in the dreams of children. Didion was spelling out in rather blunt terms that she regarded feminists as American women who wanted the freedom of adult sexual life without any of its attendant risks or responsibilities recognized by humanity since its origin. At the time she wrote her piece rebuttals ranged from saying that nobody who voted for Goldwater should be taken seriously to pointing out that compared to most women Didion could live high on the hog.

I'm not sure I exactly disagree about the beta male stuff altogether, although most males are beta male or less by contemporary American standards. There's a sense in which the manosphere blogs and feminist blogs may have an ethos in common, that you can't trust anyone who isn't negotiating a very active sex life to have any idea what it means to be a man or a woman, even though ostensibly the political and social agendas would be very different.