An open memo to men

By Elizabeth Matz

In the production of pornography, you take our actual lived pain, violation and destruction and turn it into sexual entertainment: To arouse yourselves, to masturbate, to influence and coerce other women and girls, and to make billions of dollars. You take what we’ve revealed of the real experience and impact of rape and child sexual abuse: our content, our words, our insights, our dynamics, our feelings, our needs and call it fantasy, fiction, pretend, education or your free speech.

You steal it and throw it back at us as trivial! (Common place, insignificant, unimportant.) The fact and experience of our hurt, pain and destruction are “disappeared,” vaporized, made invisible, turned into mere representation: not real or actual.

Often you respond, “Don’t indict all men – only some men do these things.” I am told I am wrong to say “men oppress women” because only certain men do: sick men, pathological men, deviant men, immature men, abused men, bad men, sinful men, not real men, anti-feminist men, misogynist men, wrong thinking men, criminal men, ignorant men, cruel-mean men.

Then I would ask you, “Where are the rest of you: healthy men, normal men, mature men, well cared for men, good men, innocent men, real men, evolved men, forward thinking men, smart men, sensitive men, progressive men, enlightened men, pro-feminist men, women-loving men, right minded men, innocent-guiltless men, educated men, sensitive-kind men?”

Where is the relevant data that would indicate your active presence?

What is the probability of finding a representative sample of this population of good men? Perhaps you are not statistically significant? What is the probability that you lack power and validity? Clearly you lack reliability.

Some hypotheses

Men oppress women
Some men oppress women
Some men do not oppress women
Not all men oppress women
Not all men do not oppress women
Not only some men do not oppress women
Some men do not not oppress women
Whatever the hypothesis – the key word is “null”

Is there an inverse correlation between the level of your objections to being categorized as “all men” and the actual putting-of-your-money-where-your-mouth-is? Do you lack the required numbers to have sufficient power?

A review of the amount and varieties of male violations and violence seems to indicate that male violence is not a deviation from the norm. It seems, rather, quite standard: a standard deviation.

Perhaps I have overlooked a quite subtle approach on your part due to inadequately reviewing your efforts against violence against women. Then I must acknowledge being too hard on your soft approach.

Is it that good men were previously active against male violence but only recently have become less so? If so, an analysis of the regression is clearly called for. However, interpretation of the data does not indicate lowered or decreased levels of male social action in response to male violence.

All things considered, I believe we do not err in any direction when we implicate “men” as the oppressors of women.

While this particular generic use of the term “men” is appropriate, it is also true that individual right-thinking men do exist. So, where are you, good men, and what are you doing?

I don’t see a visible national group of male authors of the best known academic and clinical writing on violence and abuse (joined with the requisite politicians and celebrities) organizing men against violence against women, or men against rape.

I do not see you, mainstream male researchers and clinicians, involved in, or even calling for, such action in a major national, visible movement. I understand that you are very busy researching, writing and publishing on violence against women. I understand that it takes all the time and energy you’ve got to just earn a living, gain recognition, build status and a career on women’s abuse.

Operationalize yourselves! Quantitative and qualitative change is called for. We’ll be looking for empirical, observable, dare I say, objective, even statistical data indicating that you are good men taking effective action toward ending abuse of women and girls.

This article was first published in Women & Therapy in 1994 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

Elizabeth Matz, PhD, is an independent feminist scholar and psychotherapist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her research and writing are centered on the social construction of gender as the foundation of sexualized violations. She does long term psychotherapy with adult survivors of childhood trauma.

7 thoughts on “An open memo to men

  1. A real call to action to men, and a challenge for them to back up their sympathy for women as targets of male violation with real organizing and sustained focus. Just as relevant today as when originally published.

  2. what is your point of this? Trauma, pain, no escape, nothing but misanthropy.

    If this site exists to promote a nordic model for legal reasons, this kind of despairing rants is worse than useless.

    You want data? The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by a tiny minority of men. ACTUALLY.

    You love data, go look it up.

    Most men, by a significant margin have never and will never pay for a prostitute, or profit from prostitution. You believe data, go look it up.

    You may equate men with abuse, I’m sorry you have that experience. But this kind of rant comes off to people who don’t live in a trauma-bubble as ridiculous and stupid. Men, AND women, and you know it.

    You resent and hate MOST WOMEN as surely as you hate ALL MEN.

    By you, I mean the author. And this website is indespensible for promoting actual changes in legal and social norms that this kind of stupid rant can only help be disregarded.

    I am a man who doesn’t and would never use a prostitute. My father was and is a real human being who taught me not to be a pig, or entitled or any of that. He isn’t christian, and he isn’t a male feminsit phoney. We weren’t rich, or entitled. None of my male friends, not one, has the values the author of this rant insists is exactly all men. Okay, you hate men. Go live in your hatred and stop polluting a generally informative website which despairs that nothing can ever be done because everyone is what hurts you.

    1. it always makes me laugh that men say they don’t know any males who actually are abusive toward women, yet most women have some story of harassment or abuse. 90% of men watch pornography and from the survivor stories on this page, it is apparent that thousands of ‘ordinary’ men visit prostitutes, even trafficked underage ones and that doesn’t bother them. They harass women and girls online as if it were normal behaviour. So that ‘tiny minority’ doing the ‘actual’ abuse must be very bloody busy and it’s a relief that the rest of the normal, ‘good’ men are happy just to watch women be strangled in movies and pick up desparate,14 yr olds on street corners. But then again, I’m just a misandrist.

  3. John, you’re delusional. Please stop defending misogyny and really reflect on what you are writing, maybe with one of the women you look up to in your life who probably has been sexually assaulted or raped on more than one occasion, as most women are. Wait, you don’t look up to any women?

    A tiny minority of WOMEN sexually assault MEN. There, fixed it for ya.

  4. I can understand your point, but this could come across as hateful towards men as individuals, not class. I have never been abused by any male in my life, probably for having lived in a progressive country, but I know this is not the case elsewhere. So in my personal experience, this is what I can say. It is important to be clear when we talk about men as a class and men as individuals.

  5. My view is that in a highly gendered society all men benefit, whether we know it or not from the oppression of the female sex. The fact that some of us are prepared to take a stand against that oppression doesn’t change the fact that socially constructed sex roles mean that we can be paid a lot more for the same work, that we are less likely to be raped (whether paid or not), that we have less cause to fear going out alone in the evening etc etc. As a sex class we have to own up to that reality, listen to the survivors of abuse and act to change the status quo.

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