This was written by Prerna after Men In Power’s “Gender in the Media” event on Tuesday…whew. More info soon about feminist actions in response to Men In Power on campus!
“I attended the recent panel discussion hosted by Men in Power as one of the “demonstrators.” It was certainly kind of Mr. Saltarelli to provide the audience with that label for us, and even kinder of him to attempt to clarify our intentions in the event of confusion, as we so thoughtlessly neglected to do. Regrettably, however, although I must confess, not surprisingly, he failed to grasp what may have been a subtle point.
As I heard their panelist say after the event, Men in Power fully understands the historical/social structures, attitudes, and institutions that its name indexes. According to him, at least part of the reason for the name is that they hope to debunk those references with the mission and content of the group. While I might question why this dissociation is a good thing, I will (for now) accept at face-value the simplistic answer that I got on Monday night: it would be nice if a man in a position of power was not automatically assumed to be “bad.” What Men in Power is saying, then, seems to be that we should look beyond the socially-indexed stereotype to the actual content underneath. I wish they could have done the same for my apron; it indexes the same complicated set of conditions as “Men in Power,” and I wore it, not to point to those stereotypes, but to the problems with them. Underneath the apron, I was a person with a much more complicated opinion than “this is how Men in Power wants women to be.” I’d like to thank Mr. Saltarelli, however, for trying.
I’d also like to thank Men in Power for organizing a discussion about “Gender and the Media.” Unfortunately, none of us got to hear much about this, because Men in Power very literally monopolized the conversation. Some of this was unavoidable, simply because of the questions asked by the audience, but it was evident even before the floor (so to speak) was opened. The panelist from Men in Power spoke more, possibly, than the rest of the panel put together. He took on a highly aggressive role in the conversation, often interrupting other panelists, and displaying obvious irritation on the two occasions when he was himself interrupted. On one occasion, when the interruption was made in order to note that the panel’s usage of a gender binary marginalizes alternative gender-identities in the same way that the mainstream media does, this irritation caused him to completely sideline (marginalize?) the comment. Based Monday’s hypertextual performance, which was, frankly, far more telling than anything actually expressed, I find myself less than sanguine about (not their purpose, not their name!) the role that Men in Power will play in the broader performance of social analysis, knowledge-production, and emancipation that we like to believe is taking place around us. The group’s creation has already instigated a safety-zone for the unashamed expression of latent sexist, anti-feminist, and anti-queer attitudes. While it may not have been the intention of the group to do this, it is certainly incumbent upon them to address it as an issue.
Less surprising, but still disappointing, was the fact that Men in Power exerted a topical monopoly as well. Aside from a strange preoccupation with gang violence (strange, insofar as it seems strange for an advocacy group on campus to be concerned with gang violence, which is unlikely to affect any of their demographic except possibly as collateral damage), the group has identified a number of intriguing issues. However, it seems questionable whether they will ever actually manage to engage with the important issues they mention, given the amount of time that they have so far spent defending their group relative to its name. It might behoove them to change, if only in the interests of their stated mission (I suggest “Students for Ideological Stubbornness”)
All this aside, however, I have to admit that I found my apron to be surprisingly comfortable, not to mention utilitarian, and may take to wearing it more often. Unfortunately, cozy though they are, both apron and the academic/intellectual veneer applied to real-life discussion at this university share a fundamental flaw: neither offers sufficient protection, much less emancipation, from the bigoted and oppressive social conditions that produce and underlie them both.”