October 29, 2013
Bonnie Erbe' Bonnie Erbe'

The final stage of feminism is something I call, “masculism.” If women are ever to reach true parity, men must be on board. These are the conclusions I’ve reached after spending time this week at a US Institute for Peace Symposium on Men, Peace and Security.

I coined the term masculism to describe the male version of feminism. According to research produced for the symposium, and contrary to popular opinion, men are not innately much more prone to violence than are women. This finding alone is trail-blazing and defies common stereotypes. Further, men’s engagement in violent conflict is seen by researchers as a form of victimization of men, much as women are victimized by male chauvinism.

 

The researchers conclude, in a paper presented at the Symposium entitled, “The Other Side of Gender” that the male hormone testosterone can produce a propensity toward aggression. But aggression is not hard-wired to violent behavior. Violent behavior, they say, “is the result of a more complicated interplay among biology and social context. Violence is ultimately learned and encouraged in the social environment----which suggests that it can be unlearned.”

Most Americans, if asked, would say that men are more violent than women. More men go to prison for violent crimes, more men sign up to go to the front lines of combat zones, more men than women sexually assault the other gender, etc. Imagine what peace would reign, not only in terms of societal and domestic violence, but also in terms of major conflicts, if this behavior could be un-learned?

Another societal factor that leads men to violence is economic frustration. The researchers say that economic independence and providing for one’s family, “can be an integral part of masculine identity. Men who are unemployed, lacking in both income and social recognition are more prone to be violent and participate in armed conflicts. Large scale unemployment can ‘create a large pool of idle young men with few prospects and little to lose’…”

I reported a story in Cairo back in the 1990’s on efforts to give Egyptian women access to contraception and the ability to plan their families. At the clinic I was surprised to see wives sitting with their husbands, waiting to see a doctor. That society did not allow women to access birth control without the consent of their husbands. It is still true today in many developing countries. But that is when I first realized that parity for women on a global scale depended on the active participation of men in women’s advancement.

It’s true here at home, too. If we want to work toward an end to domestic violence, that won’t happen unless we break the cycle of violence society perpetrates on men. In places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, little boys are conscripted as slave soldiers to fight for guerilla armies. In the United States, boys are indoctrinated into violence by playing graphic, brutal video games that allow them virtually to experience the horrors of war as if they were fighting. And we wonder why domestic violence is rampant and sex trafficking is growing.

The next stage of feminism is about engaging men. Once men see the way society devalues them by sacrificing them in a culture of violence, they see the light. Once they appreciate the gift of engaging in family life, they start to see women as partners rather than as subjects. Women can’t do it without men.