Excuses aren’t apologies, and no men are monsters

I briefly covered Veitch’s apology in my criticism of the Herald, but I wanted to come back in more detail here and mention what really bothered me about the way he issued it. Veitch as a presenter ought to know about the power of words, and his apology was not the words of a man who has faced up to what he has done. They were the words of a man who has tortured himself about it and never properly closed off the matter.

While he obviously wants to move on from the incident and seems to have resolved to not do anything similar again, (as much as it is possible to do so) he is still excusing his own behaviour1, even though he clearly knows it was wrong because he said just one sentence beforehand that his behaviour was “inexcusable”.

Veitch also talks as if his ex-partner was hardly even present at the time. There is little mention of the impact on her, it’s well buried into his statement, and he does not discuss the extent or facts of his violence.2

Many have questioned whether Veitch should be employed in broadcasting at all. I think that the apology is good evidence that he’s just not ready for a high-profile career yet, and has work to do with his demons. While I firmly believe that men who have been violent in the past and regret it deserve a chance to build a good life for themselves, just like all people who commit crimes or make poor choices in life, I think that the best way for them to do that is by working to mitigate the effects of domestic violence or even trying to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Women’s Refuge seems to agree.

I sincerely hope Veitch will use this as an opportunity to really face up to what he did, not just avoid it the way he has for the last few years. I hope he’ll remind men that violence harms the perpetrator, not just the victim, and that’s why self-control is so important. And I hope he’ll let men know that even men who dislike violence in general can still lash out at people they care about. We all have a darker side to us that we have to control. Every man has within him the potential to be an abuser, a rapist, a repressive and controlling partner. Or we have the potential to teach others the self-control, sympathy, empathy, care, and understanding they need to avoid those mistakes. Veitch’s statement made it clear that he lost control because he didn’t didn’t know how to deal with extreme feelings without lashing out. Many men don’t, and that’s a problem we as a society need to put urgent work into.

I’ve touched on this before- but one of the good things to come about from this story will be increased awareness that men who abuse women are about as “normal” as you can get. Veitch might have been a high flier, but he clearly had no psychological imbalance, doesn’t seem to have any exceptional anger problems- all he had to compel him to this course of action was the male privilege of being bigger and stronger, and of not being constantly pressured to control your urges to physically harm in the same way women are. And sadly, that is enough.

1Being stressed, exhausted, and perhaps upset or emotionally tired after a breakup is no excuse for the level of abuse that Veitch has been accused of. It certainly explains something about the nature of what made him do what he did, but it’s nowhere near an excuse.
2Probably for legal reasons.

The Other Man

So, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the masculinities. One of the really awesome things you gain from teh feminisms is the ability to critique masculine culture.

Today I want to talk to you about what I like to think of as the other man. Or if you like, the Other man.

He’s your Dad. He’s your priest. He’s your counselor. He’s your community organiser, your social worker, your legal aid lawyer, your teacher or lecturer, and sometimes he even manages to be your MP. He might watch the rugby, but if so, he usually does it from home and he winces at the high tackles. He may drink, but he doesn’t get pissed. He may be the main earner, but if so he doesn’t stifle his partner, and he’ll make time for the family.

In short, he doesn’t buy into damaging stereotypes of masculinity. He can wear pink shirts. He can tell his partner he loves them in public. He can go to a gay bar1. He can sew, he can cook more than just spag bol, he doesn’t get overprotective of his daughters2, he can let his wife take charge, he can let his wife be the breadwinner, he can decide not to have sex right now3, and he can talk about feelings without bursting into laughter.

In short, he can do things that men who buy into the whole rugby bloke culture can’t. He’s no longer the same old man, cut from a template. He’s free from his own expectations for himself to be someone he may not like. He can do anything. He defines himself, and has broken free of any script that other men might want to write for him. Psychologically speaking, he’s stronger than they are. (Maybe physically speaking, too. Depends on the bloke)

The Other Man is a stand alone complex. You just need to know the idea exists and suddenly you can pick up the mantle yourself completely independently of any other person you know. And if you do, you’ll be surprised just how many of your friends and acquaintances are actually the Other Man.

And once we all realise just how many of us there are, it makes it easier to change things for the better, little by little.

1Or more specifically, he can go into a gay bar without trying to make sure his ass is covered at all times. And yes, walking stereotypes are hilarious. 🙂
2Apparently every woman is a slut except your daughter(s), and you need to keep it that way in both cases. Now you know.
3He can also decide not to rape women even if they’re “provocatively” dressed, or if he’s just really, really horny and angry. How cool is that?!

Male contraceptives

(No, they aren’t devices for making sure all your children are girls…)

Male contraceptives is a bit of an interesting area. Right now, there’s essentially just the one mass-marketed male contraceptive, which we’re all familiar with, our friend the condom. And of course, there’s vasectomies, which are pretty much permanent. Lesser-known do-it-yourself methods like special underwear or heat methods for temporary infertility are also possible. In contrast, there’s too many female contraceptives to count on one hand, although you can probably manage it if you just keep it down to just the really effective ones.

One of the big myths about male contraceptives is that there’s no real need for them, or at least no demand. For instance, many stories on the development of a male pill air the attitude from some less-enlightened women that they would not trust men to deal with contraception. That’s fine- they don’t have to. Male contraception isn’t about women. It’s about men being able to decide independently of their partners whether they want to have children. It could mean less single or teenage mothers. It means that couples (or singles 😉 ) have the option of taking up to three or four redundant methods of birth control, greatly minimizing the risk of unwanted pregnancy.

If there’s not an indication of demand now, that’s simply because few people have really considered that sexual liberation could have a second wave. (or perhaps a third wave, if you want to go back further) While sex-negative commentators at the time were concerned that widespread hormonal birth control would lead to parental irresponsibility. However, in my view quite the opposite has happened- as parenthood has increasingly become a choice, people are more likely to save childhood for more stable family environments. The appearance of relationships breaking down more often is far more likely related to the fact that we allow no-fault divorce and seperation now, and that we’re a little more open with our relationship failures than before.

This third wave could see a similar increase in sexual responsibility. Also, while it may not mean much for women in terms of their own sexual choices, it could have a big impact on a prominent negative stereotype of women. With sexual responsibility comes sexual power, and putting low-profile contraception in the hands of both genders restores a sense of sexual power to men, whether they’re justified in feeling they’ve lost it or not. And this directly effects one of the most sinister views of women: that they use sex as a weapon. That women, underneath, are just out to get us, and that they’ll do it through paternity fraud, or through emotional manipulation. And seeing that old saw rusted would be a very welcome sight indeed.

Sociological impact aside, the male pill is not the only new male birth control concept that’s on the horizon. There are essentially two approaches to male contraception: blocking sperm from somehow reaching the egg, and inhibiting the production of sperm so that any that do develop are unable or unlikely to fertilize an egg. Some methods use both approaches at once. The condom, for instance, is a blocking method. Heat methods, suspensories, (the special underwear I mentioned earlier) the male pill, and several other methods inhibit sperm production. There’s an experimental birth control method called RISUG that uses both methods, and avoids some of the nasty health side-effects of some of the more sophisticated blocking methods.

If you’d like more information on male contraceptives, this site has excellent overviews of several practical and experimental methods.

Links

Apparently whatever I’ve got is somehow recurring. Instead of trying to think cogently tonight I’m just going to post some links to some totally cool feminist reading for today:

Advanced Consent (2), and some libertarian philosophy

Firstly- a quick apology for not being able to get this up sooner. We’ve had some wiring problems with the electricity that have stopped me from internetting until today.

Last time I covered why sex is risky and complicated, why there are excellent reasons to justify men saying no, and why arousal isn’t the same as enthusiasm/consent. Remembering from my simpler post that consent is about active participation or communication, let’s head forward into discussing the nature of consent in relationships and the gatekeeper model of marriage, incidental consent within relationships and saying no with a small justification or without one altogether, and consent between same-sex partners.

Let’s start with the gatekeeper model of marriage. It starts by being a little sexist against men, and then gets a lot more sexist against women. The core assumption here is that women are gatekeepers of sex- that is, they decide when sex happens and when it doesn’t. The implication here of course is that men want sex all the time and we’re available to be used as such, but such is the result of such a simplistic theory. It then moves on to imply that marriage is an institution that exists to legitimise sex between the husband and wife, and that it entails the idea of implicit consent. This in turn informs attitudes about rape in marriage- people who buy into this gatekeeper model feel it’s impossible, because by being married a woman has somehow consented to sex whenever and wherever. That’s a pretty powerful assumption. Continue reading

Plugging into feminists dicussing men

Samhita over at Feministing continues to be awesome, plugging an interesting video by Jay Smooth on the subject of homosexuality and hip-hop.

My favourite bit was the conclusion:

Because when we find ourselves believing that killing a man makes us more of a man, but loving a man makes us less of a man, it’s probably time to re-examine our criteria for manhood.

I totally suggest you check out Jay’s site, as it has a few more gender politics gems in it. Yes, I did just link to something twice in one post about link-whoring. Seeing a hiphop fan talking about manhood myths is that cool.

Advanced Consent (1)

Seeing as I’m having a bit of writer’s block on the issue of gender essentialism at the moment, I thought I’d depart from my plan and do some advanced work on other types of consent, (ie. male and gay/lesbian consent) as was suggested in an earlier comment, because hey, it couldn’t hurt to sneak in one or two posts with advanced concepts about non-urgent concerns during my “warm-up period”. I have to confess I’m in a bit of a dilemma: I want to do more equal coverage of men’s issues, but they make the news even less than women’s issues, (and I’m not a good researcher) and they rely on an understanding of the basic concepts such as owning opinions, gendered thought, social constructivism, convergence, “overflow”, and a bunch of other pretty words.

So, Moz rightly criticises me for being simplistic and focusing on straight female consent because of this. Seeing I have no doubt you are all intelligent human beings, let’s dive a little deeper. Be warned though: IF complicated words and concepts make your eyes glaze over, this one is going to put you to sleep. 🙂 Continue reading