"Ultimately I am in favor of neither a women's movement nor a men's movement but a gender transition movement." Does this quote come from Cathy Young's article? ("Man Troubles," July) Is it part of her criticism of Warren Farrell and the entire masculist movement? No. You might be surprised to find that it comes from Dr. Farrell himself and his book, The Myth of Male Power. Young suggests that masculism is merely an attempt to "outshout and out-whine" feminism and that "the ultimate lesson we have still to learn is that most gender issues are women's and men's issues (her emphasis).
What Ms. Young clearly fails to realize is that masculism has learned precisely this lesson and that, in fact, this is the lesson it hopes to teach others. As a masculist, I was heartened by the fact that Ms. Young seemed to get so many of her facts straight, whether she was discussing biases against men in the judicial system or biases against boys in school. But I was deeply saddened by the fact that she doesn't seem to understand the underlying philosophy of masculism at all--a philosophy which, I believe, is wholly consistent with her own.
Congratulations on having the courage to publish an article on gender issues which doesn't conform to the politically correct misandric genre.
We do wonder, however, why you chose a woman, even one as bright as Ms. Young, to "make sense of the men's movement." She is eminently qualified to make sense of the women's movement, but not necessarily of the men's. We rather prefer to define it ourselves.
Simply put, the legitimate element of the men's movement may be defined as the effort to obtain equal rights and equal dignity for the male gender. Young's article criticizes men for complaining about "victimhood." That's like exhorting a fellow being beat up to quit complaining. She might not be so quick to dismiss men as whiners if her government's standard policy were to evict her at her husband's whim, wrench her children from her, coercively collect alimony support from her, and jail her for refusal to submit.
Not only is such fascism undemocratic, but one might expect the ubiquitous government takeover of the rights and responsibilities of husbands and fathers, as well as massive redistribution of wealth, to be of strong concern to libertarians. Although Warren Farrell is a more legitimate representative of the men's movement than Robert Bly and other mythopoetics, Ms. Young mistakes high-profile writers and liberal organizers for the real theorists of the men's movement. The Liberator, a publication of the Men's Defense Association, has been defending the interests of men since 1968. Other, even usually more liberal, men would have been equally qualified to "make sense of the men's movement."
Richard F. Doyle
Men's Defense Association
Forest Lake, MN
Ms. Young replies: Mr. Seeman feels that if I could only understand "the underlying philosophy of masculism," I would see that it is "wholly consistent" with mine. If masculism means that both women and men should be free to make life choices based on their individual abilities and preferences rather than gender, that is indeed my philosophy. I also appreciate masculist insights into some gender-specific male disadvantages, at least in our feminist (postfeminist?) age. Yes, men can be subjected to burdensome expectations; but if the philosophy of masculism is that being expected to be strong, logical, active, and independent is just as crippling as being expected to be weak, passive, illogical, and dependent, it is not a philosophy I would embrace.
Warren Farrell may "ultimately" favor a "gender transition" movement, but he also insists that it must be preceded by a men's movement sufficiently strong to balance the women's movement. Discussing whether it would be "fair" to go from feminism to gender transition and skip the masculist stage is an interesting intellectual exercise, but the practical danger is that a political men's movement will try to rival the current women's movement in victim rhetoric, shrillness, and distortions.
For evidence of this, one need only look at Mr. Doyle, whose complaints about my article are a mirror image of classic radical feminist tactics--including his distress that an article about the movement has been assigned to a writer of the wrong sex. Since the September 1994 issue of Mr. Doyle's publication, The Liberator, features among its slogans the old German proverb, "Never believe a woman, not even a dead one, I am not surprised by his reaction; I would like only to point out that 1) the article on the men's movement was my idea, and it's not my fault that no male author proposed such an article first and 2) Mr. Doyle's maleness has never precluded him from making pronouncements about feminism. Mr. Doyle also faithfully imitates another standard feminist ploy--that of countering charges of whining or a victim mentality by saying, "But we're only calling attention to all the terrible things that happen to us!" Calling attention to real inequities is one thing; calling men an oppressed class and comparing their status, as The Liberator does on its front page, to that of slaves in the antebellum South is something else altogether.
Moreover, Mr. Doyle is not entirely forthcoming when he defines his agenda as "equal rights." In The Liberator, he repeatedly endorses a very different goal--"the restoration of patriarchy--tempered with "chivalry," he generously adds. And the current issue features an article whose author candidly states that he would like to see O.J. Simpson "go free, perhaps on a technicality, even if he did the deed," and get custody of his children. Why? Because many feminists supported Jean Harris, who shot her philandering lover, as a victim of "emotional abuse." Could there be a more perfect example of destructive tit-for- tat? The author also expresses his belief that "many men [secretly?] feel the same way." If Mr. Doyle's brand of masculism did not exist, Andrea Dworkin would have had to invent it.
Ethan Nadelmann ("Mind Alteration," July) neglects an important aspect in legalizing drugs: He works and so would the people who currently commit property crimes to obtain drugs if that were their most viable option. It's been contended that coolies were willing to pull rickshaws for 14 hours a day primarily to afford opium afterwards.