What are some non-ideological resources related to gender issues?
November 16, 2013 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I've personally found that the vast majority of blogs or discussion groups on gender issues (both feminist and MRA) are either too extreme or too ideological. For example, while I am generally opposed to affirmative action (but might consider it allowable in extreme circumstances), I'd love to debate someone who generally supports it, but who is willing to consider the possibility that they may be wrong. Or it would be nice to read an article about the wage gap where the writer isn't trying to either maximise or minimise it, but actually discover what the gap is and what causes there are What are some good moderate and non-ideological resources? Try to keep in mind, that what a non-feminist, non-MRA like me considers moderate is obviously going to be different from what a feminist or MRA considers to be moderate
posted by casebash to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure you're going to find feminist bloggers who are spending their time/energy debating about why they might be wrong about the very foundations of their activism. The answer might be Slate, they probably have "moderate" articles along the lines of 'The Real Reason Equal Rights Are Bad For Women' or 'The Right to Vote Was a Disaster For American Women -- Why We Should Repeal It' and so on and so forth, including for issues like affirmative action. Here's a real one for you: Feminists Are Sharing Abortion Horror Stories, and That's a Good Thing (if there is a way to use feminism to suggest that moving this country backwards on women's rights is a reasonable idea, Slate is all over it)
posted by citron at 10:44 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

By definition, feminism is a platform for gender equality. Masculism is concerned only with the social stature of men.
Maybe you could begin from first principles?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:46 PM on November 16, 2013 [21 favorites]

I don't know exactly how non-ideological you can get when you're talking about a movement that is based on the very ideological (in a good way!) idea of equality.

But I know that bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody [PDF, free] is used as an introductory reader a lot.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:03 PM on November 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It's a bit unclear what you deem "too extreme" versus what you don't. The feminist and MRA movements are necessarily ideological because many times they're advocating for a state of affairs that isn't present in current reality. Regarding issues like the wage gap, I think you're trying to look for objective and impartial information and statistics on the matter, rather than (biased) articles with a political goal in mind (with some feminists emphasizing the gap, and some non-feminists dismissing the gap, to the extremes).

One textbook I can recommend is "The Economics of Gender" by Joyce Jacobsen. It's impartial and examines the issue of wage differences from many perspectives. I'm sure there are many other textbooks on the subject (and probably better ones), but this is the only one I know of at the moment. It was assigned for a university Gender and Economics course I took years ago. I think the key is to search for textbooks (geared towards university or college courses) rather than books, because unlike academic textbooks, books are almost always written from the author's particular viewpoint (and possible biases).
posted by vanizorc at 12:19 AM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

It is Canadian data, but Statistics Canada has a recent report using hard figures from the past 25 years. Statistics Canada is federally funded and tries to stay away from politics as much as it is able.
posted by saucysault at 3:06 AM on November 17, 2013

The framing of your question suggests that you see feminism and MRA as being opposing end points of a single ideological spectrum. Feminists are somehow "for women" and MRA are "for men" and you are seeking neutral ideological ground in the middle. I would suggest that this framing is itself not neutral; in fact it accords far more closely with an MRA view of the world than that of mainstream feminists.

A feminist would argue that the two movements are not on the same ideological spectrum; they're not in opposition, they are having completely different conversations. Feminism seeks to address gender inequality not just because doing so benefits women and girls, but because the presence of sexual discrimination and sexual violence is bad for everyone. Society as a whole suffers when we curtail the aspirations of half its citizens. Women may be harmed more, but men are harmed too. For example, patriarchal gender roles can lead to men and boys being punished for expressing weakness or emotion. Hyper-masculine workplaces can make it hard for fathers to play an equal role in caring for their children. In the feminist view, the key battle is not "women versus men"; it is "humanity against gender inequality".

Mens rights activists frame the issue differently; they don't just have a different opinion or a different interpretation of the facts, they are looking at the situation through an entirely different lens. In the MRA view, mens and women's interests sit in opposition to each other - if women win, men lose. When mens rights activists call for men to stand up because "feminism has gone too far", they are implicitly stating that women and men can't both benefit from gender equality. Whenever women gain power, men must lose it, and feminism has caused men to lose so much power that they must now fight to take some back. The gender struggle is a zero-sum game.

So, feminists and mens rights activists disagree on two fronts: They disagree about the facts - whether women really have gained "too much" power at the expense of men (feminists would argue that living in a sexist society makes it difficult for men to recognise the true extent of the male privilege they still enjoy). But more importantly, they disagree on how the issue is framed; the MRA view men's and women's rights as being in opposition to each other, while mainstream feminists see gender equality as a net good to everyone.

My point is not to convince you that one view or the other is true, rather to point out that while you seek a "moderate" position, you seem to be viewing the whole issue through a peculiarly MRA-tinted lens. In searching for your comfortable middle ground, you may find it helpful to try viewing the debate through variety of lenses, including feminist ones. This blog post might be a good starting point: If patriarchy hurts men too, how can it still be considered patriarchy?
posted by embrangled at 3:19 AM on November 17, 2013 [121 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, going forward let's stick to providing resources for the question asked. If you want to discuss other aspects, you can mefi mail the OP, to see if they want to have that conversation. If you don't know of specific resources that seem to fit the OP's criteria, it's fine to go ahead and pass this one up.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:55 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine researched & wrote a series of articles for HBR trying to get to the heart of pay inequality and correlating for other factors, there just wasn't an explanation for it. Relatedly, you could check out Catalyst, a non-profit group that researches gender differences in the workplace with the intention of supporting the advancement of women. Their stuff is among the most balanced and research-based that I've read.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:59 AM on November 17, 2013

Another textbook you might like is Michael Kimmel's The Gendered Society.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:33 AM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: You might be interested in the work of Kristin Luker.

In her books, she takes controversial issues (abortion, teen pregnancy, abstinence education) ans asks, if we assume that people are generally neither stupid nor evil, why do they act the way they do and believe the things they do? She includes lots of quantitative data as well as qualitative interviews with people on all sides of the issues. I am a liberal feminist (as I believe she is, as well, though she usually reveals her views on an issue only at the end of a book or not at all) but I find her work to be very useful in understanding the "opposition" without demonizing it.

I've read Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, and When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex--and Sex Education--since the Sixties, and I recommend them all. I'm sure you could find other articles and writing of hers through the magic of Google.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 6:51 AM on November 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

You might read some historical conservative writing from the suffrage or ERA era. MRA is a fringe, (counter)revolutionary ideology, without an ounce of the cool that adds validation to movements like that, and openly advocating its tenets would cost you your job a lot of the time. Opposing suffrage or Title IX or the ERA was done proudly and openly by people who were held in high esteem and who wrote from authority as opposed to from dissent. They also weren't (as probably half the MRAs are now) writing from the particular posture of someone who had a very bad divorce lawyer and a very ruthless ex-wife, which definitely puts the blinders on their perspective.
posted by MattD at 7:45 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding vanizorc that writings by academic economists, while by no means free from ideological leanings, are probably going to be a good source of relatively data-driven, information-heavy commentary on at least those gender issues that relate to resource allocation and social class.

The scholarly economic blogosphere is vast and well-populated, but for a start, Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution is pretty well-regarded and popular, plus good about linking to other sources. A search for commentary on the gender wage gap on that blog reveals a number of interesting-looking posts.
posted by Bardolph at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2013

You might enjoy Slate's Double X blog. Many of their posts are written from a definite feminist perspective, but plenty of others are mostly informational in nature, e.g. "Actually, White Women Voted for Ken Cuccinelli," and "Only 12 Percent of Older Women Feel Satisfied with Their Bodies." And in fact, a few months ago, Hanna Rosin wrote a post on, just as you mentioned as an example, the sources of the gender wage gap (arguing, as it happens, that most of the statistics you hear cited overstate the gap).
posted by sashapearl at 9:51 AM on November 17, 2013

I can't help you with the MRA movement, because I don't see it as a set of viewpoints that admits dissenting or alternate viewpoints, especially those of women. But hydropsyche mentioned Michael Kimmel above, and you might want to read or watch videos by him and his colleague and co-author, Michael Kaufman. They're by no means unproblematic, but they examine how feminism affects men, and the benefits it can bring to both genders. So it's by no means an argument against feminism, but it's an alternate way of approaching the subject.

The Guy's Guide to Feminism, with Michael Kaufman.

Metafilter thread of Kaufman on men, feminism, and violence. Come for the links, stay for the spirited discussion.
posted by bibliowench at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think avoiding anyone who used Tumblr as their primary outlet is a good first step. You might have better luck by finding commenters on moderated sites with whom you can have well-reasoned and reasonable discussions, and then follow them. Like on Disqus or something similiar.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: I find blogs without comments sections to be some of the best for this; comments sections encourage a sort of performative extremity. Andrew Sullivan is an interesting linker to some gender issues, and has no discussion options, which is a net positive. Slate also does a lot of straightforwardly investigative work; although many posters like to pretend that they're devil's advocates, they're mostly just data-obsessed, which is disappointing to people who prefer conclusions to investigation.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: Have you looked into philosophy textbooks? If you're looking for presentation of both sides of an issue, with a focus on the principles rather than the stats/public policy specifics, and where a shock/titillating/trolling headline is not a driving factor, you might look into the kind of texts that are used in "introduction to feminism" courses in philosophy departments. (Which will likely be readers/anthologies which present important work on either side along with some introductory text.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 AM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding LobsterMitten - a good philosophy textbook should present you with the key arguments, but not try to persuade you, precisely because the point of doing philosophy is to introduce you to new areas to think about (and new ways to think about them). I'd recommend this one by Jenny Mather Saul, it's great.
posted by Joeruckus at 5:06 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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