First of all, I like men. A lot. They’re funny, and cute, and smart, and they make life interesting. They are an integral part of my life—I have a dad, a brother, a husband, and a son. So a man helped to raise me next to a boy, and I’m raising my boy with a man. I also have male friends who recommend books and movies and talk about raising kids and make me laugh. Yep, I like dudes. I’d miss them if they weren’t around.
Secondly, the whole idea of a niche audience gets on my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, I know I need a target audience. I used to be a tech writer, and I wrote entirely different documentation when I was addressing a technical audience than when I was addressing a non-technical one. Now I teach writing to college students, and the idea of audience is always front and center—you can’t be persuasive if you don’t know who you’re talking to, or what they care about. So I understand that defining an audience is important.
If feminist work defines its audience as female only, the people we need to hear us most—the people we need to make concessions in their work life so that family life functions better, the people we need to stop arguing with us and start talking to us—aren’t listening. And we aren’t listening to them. If women and men don’t talk to each other and listen to each other, gender problems are going to be forever stuck in first gear, or idling at the bottom of the hill.
I know lots of men who care about this stuff. I know men who think that the female body is not being respected by the media, who recognize that objectification and empowerment aren’t synonymous. I know men, my husband chief among them, who help out in their kids’ classrooms, cook meals, help with homework, and generally help to make family life work. I even know men who—gasp!—stay home with their children while their wives support the family. In other words, men deserve to be part of the conversation about gender equality. We need them, they need us, and the whole system works better if we work together.
Not to mention.
Increasingly, the media is defining the male body as fair game for sexual objectification. What hurts a growing girl’s self-image can also hurt a growing boy’s self-image. Men and boys need to think critically about the way the male body and masculinity are defined in our culture. In fact, the male body and masculinity are an integral part of any conversation about gender as a whole.
Writing about motherhood and “women’s issues” often defines a woman writer’s niche for her. She is seen as writing for women only, because she is writing about women. And of course I’m writing for women—moms and non-moms too. I need to hear the voices and perspectives of other women, and I hope they enjoy hearing mine. But I don’t define this blog—or any conversation about parenthood, sexuality, and gender in our culture—as a female issue. I define it as a human issue.
The more niche-ified a conversation becomes, the more difficult it is to crack that baby wide open. I’ve cracked open a conversation or two in my day, and it is never an easy thing. You have to make some concessions, and you have to admit some things you’d prefer not to admit, even to yourself. But a civilized, wide-open conversation is always worth it in the end. In fact, it’s the only way to make real progress.