Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An open letter to Ms. Magazine

by Chloe Angyal

I was thrilled to see that Ms. Magazine’s recent special issue celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama, and I join the magazine in its delight at the arrival of a President whose rhetoric and policies are so encouragingly pro-women. Obama’s presidency is a turning point in America’s history, and a turning point in American women’s history. If the stirring cover of that special issue is to be believed, Ms. has accurately recognized Obama as a man who can be depended on to defend women’s rights, who is willing to put women in positions of power, and who understands that with the health and progress of women in America will come the health and progress of the country as a whole. In short, Ms. has accurately recognized Obama as a male feminist.

It is disappointing, then, to see that Ms. has failed to review one of the most important works of male feminist writing to be published in recent years: Guyland, by Michael Kimmel. Kimmel, a giant in the gender studies field, has produced a work of great importance, a work that, though it focuses on young men, is essential reading for men and women alike. Kimmel understands that young men and the culture in which they are becoming adult men cannot be understood in isolation from the young women with whom they interact every day. He recognizes that “girls have to contend with Guyland just as much as guys do. Just as Guyland is the social world in which boys become men, so too is Guyland the context in which girls become women.” As a result, his analysis addresses how the current trends among young men affect young women – their friends, sisters and girlfriends – and how young women can protect themselves and the men they love from the worst of Guyland.

Male feminists are few and far between and should be celebrated wherever they are found. Kimmel, one the most prolific and respected male feminist writers working today, has produced a truly significant work, one that will find an avid audience among the readership of Ms. For as Kimmel himself notes, feminism is the antidote to Guyland. It is feminism, the expectation that a man should be “ethical, emotionally present, and accountable to his values in his actions with women — as well as with other men” that will allow women and men alike to survive and remake Guyland, to remake society, into a more just and equitable place.

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